Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Aviva - au revoir!

For many years my wife and I have insured our cars with Norwich Union. They weren't the cheapest but they weren't the most expensive either. Their prices were roughly competitive.

More importantly, they were easy and pleasant to deal with. When we phoned them up, the phone was answered promptly. I could understand the person easily, and they could understand me. When something went wrong, they were quick to help.

Recently Norwich Union has been rebranded Aviva, apparently a "global brand". I don't know if that's really important to them (people quite happily buy Cape apples, Champagne and BMWs for example) but I didn't really care.

What I did care about was the sudden plummet in quality of service.

My wife tried to add our son to one of the car insurance policies last week. When she initially phoned, she was asked to complete the request online. Well, we both have degrees in computer science, so going online is no big deal. It took ages, however, to complete the form and just as that was done, the application crashed. Mmmmm. There goes half an hour.

So my wife called back.

They have these wonderful computer based telephone systems that you have to speak to. The problem is that they didn't understand my wife's accent. She was nearly driven crazy trying to enunciate in such a way that the computer would understand what she was saying.

Our surname "Haffey" for example, could not be recognised. We have been Norwich Union customers for more than 10 years and the policy had been found based on the policy number, but the voice recognition system could not tie up my wife's pronunciation of "Haffey" with the surname on the policy. Each of the three times she tried she got a maddening, patronising message saying something like "Here's some help. What we are looking for the last name of the policy holder. Please say this name now."

Eventually she got through. We added our son to the policy (which, incidentally, cost dramatically more than previously).

In the past, Norwich Union handled our insurance in one phone call of five to ten minutes. This time Aviva took over an hour of frustration. In the past Norwich Union was reasonably competitive on price. This time Aviva was expensive. In the past, when we renewed our policy Norwich Union had our loyalty because of good treatment. Next time it's likely to be "Aviva - au revoir."

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