Insurance Sentiment Index: what are customers saying?

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Customer service and claim processes are notable pain points for Irish consumers, driven by slow and inefficient communication. Insurers can seize this opportunity to transform customer experience for the better.

Insurance Sentiment Index: what are customers saying?

PwC’s 2023 Insurance Sentiment Index found an overall positive net sentiment among consumers’ social media posts. But it also showed deeply dissatisfied customers – revealing clear opportunities for improvement in the sector.

More than 50% of social conversation about Irish insurers’ operations centres on customer service. Slow and insufficient communication is a key cause of negative sentiment, with the claims process a particular problem. 

With consumers showing negative net sentiment around operations, Irish insurers need to understand both what elicits praise and what drives complaints.

Capturing consumer sentiment

PwC analysed net sentiment around the Irish insurance industry by tracking and analysing mentions of nine Irish insurance brands on social media, including the review site Trustpilot. 

We focused on reputational sentiment, which is fuelled by publicity around sponsorships and events, along with operational sentiment – customers’ experience of business operations.

Our analyses of the Irish, as well UK and South African, markets were supported by DataEQ. It applies AI and human processes to organise unstructured social media data.

Ireland fared favourably in reputational sentiment, compared to the UK. Irish insurers’ sponsorship deals with sports clubs really affects exposure and reputation – business accounts from clubs and fixture accounts dominated conversation themes. 

Over the 12-month monitoring period, the insurance industry in Ireland saw over 80,000 mentions on social media channels from 27,731 unique authors.

It’s worth noting the Irish insurance landscape – that is, the general topic of insurance, rather than specific brands – pulled in lower volumes of mentions than South Africa and the UK. Lower volumes can polarise sentiment findings towards overtly negative or positive results. 

Still, Ireland’s operational sentiment was considerably lower than in other markets, indicating less content consumers. Operational matters were an ongoing source of frustration for Irish consumers, resulting in a net sentiment of -20.4%.

Customer service: a major pain point

Customer service conversation – encompassing any consumer mentions to which a brand must reply – accounted for more than half of all operational conversation for Irish insurers.

Among all customer service channels, those consumers mentioned most were call centres (17.4%), websites (13.1%)  and email (4.3%). Consumers perceived the call centre and email channels mostly negatively, while responding more positively to website service channels.

Most customer service conversations included complaints related to turnaround time and staff competency. Interactions with customer service agents prompted the most complaints, with these surfacing as the main themes:

  •  Call centres took too long to answer or return calls.

Long hold times and virtual queues led consumers to believe insurers were understaffing customer service centres to save on costs. The result? Impatient and frustrated customers.

Worse yet, dropped or unanswered calls led consumers to question service standards.

  • Customer service teams were under-equipped to deal with customer queries. 

Poor responses to queries about policy details or claims processes created a negative customer experience. Not only does this suggest an issue with business-to-customer communication processes, but also a bottleneck in interdepartmental communication processes.

  • Staff often seemed unhelpful.

Unhelpful, rude and confused staff had customers questioning whether staff were adequately trained, and doubting their choice of insurer.

Further pain: uncertainty around claims

The claims process in Ireland had a net sentiment of -82.3%.  

Consumers’ main concerns were over poor communication about the status of pending claims, and the reasoning behind claim rejections. These issues circle back to fundamental problems with communication – both internal and external – and customer service.

First, consumers became annoyed when they had to contact insurers for information on pending claims or complaints, rather than receiving updates from their insurers.

When they tried to contact the customer service centre, familiar customer service issues arose: they often had to make multiple attempts to get through to a representative or to find the information they wanted.

Consumers became increasingly frustrated as claims failed to advance toward a resolution. Some noted that delays in the claims process resulted in out-of-pocket costs. They complained about poor performance and companies not sticking to policy terms and conditions.

Consumers also discussed their impression that assessors or claims handlers used unfair or inaccurate parameters to assess the value of a property or damage to property. They accused assessors of being slow to carry out assessments or reply to queries. And they highlighted a general lack of adherence to documentation and communication procedures.

Driving dissatisfaction: slow and insufficient communication

Turnaround time complaints led to multiple issues. Several consumers, after a bad service experience with their insurer, believed agents prioritised sales over service. 

In fact, some consumers noted it was easier to get through to agents when they wanted to buy policies than when they wanted to query policies or open a claim. Several indicated that, as a direct result of their customer service experience, they wouldn’t renew with their insurance agencies once their policies had ended. 

Many consumers reported sending multiple emails that went unanswered, or not receiving promised callbacks from service representatives. Not only did this indicate a lack of competency, but also increased call centre traffic as consumers had to ring multiple times. Consumers often posted on public social media platforms as a last resort to gain attention from the brand.

Consumers saw long wait times from the call centre, for feedback or claims resolution, as a pattern of general unresponsiveness and poor efficiency. They felt that if the insurer had made any progress in claims processes, information would be forthcoming. Working clients, with limited windows for personal admin, complained about long wait times. Many felt as though customer service representatives were uninterested in dealing with their queries.

Where customer service succeeded

While most customer service conversation was negative, there were bright spots. These are the four areas where consumers were most likely to express satisfaction. Insurers can build on these positives as they aim to improve customer experience:

  • Quick service

People gave praise when insurance agents were quick to respond to claims or queries, and when wait times in virtual queues were reduced. Positive reviews and experiences encouraged customers to recommend specific agencies to others who were unhappy with their insurers. 

  • Professionalism 

Consumers posted thanks to specific staff members who impressed them with a professional, pleasant and supportive attitude despite facing an agitated and sometimes rude client. 

Additionally, when agents were able to answer questions comprehensively, find all the information about pending claims and walk clients through the claims process, consumers were likely to post positive reviews. 

  • Smooth experiences

Before attempting to reach insurers by phone or email, consumers did attempt to update their information, purchase  renew policies, lodge claims and find policy information online. In cases where the online user experience was smooth, with minimal downtime and full functionality, consumers posted positive reviews. 

  • Clear communication

Though consumers complained about policy fine print, ambiguous wording, complicated process and misinformation, they were just as likely to praise straightforward communications, processes and documentation. 

They found satisfaction in knowing exactly how processes would progress, what information or documentation was needed and what limitations their policies had.

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Consumers valued straightforward communication processes. Access to consistent, clear information about policies and the claims process received praise. When consumers encountered ambiguities or overly complicated procedures, sentiment generally turned negative.

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Online experience

Consumers appreciated sites that were easy to navigate, had minimal downtime, and offered online renewals. Positive mentions often cited these features as factors that contributed to a satisfying customer experience.

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Agent competency

The attitude and skills base of company staff were key to creating a satisfactory customer experience. Consumers consistently acknowledged agents who exhibited professionalism, courtesy, and expertise.

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Speed and directness in claims and query handling generated consumer praise. Consumers gave positive feedback when they experienced reduced wait times and swift responses, encouraging them to recommend specific companies to others who were unhappy with their current insurer.

Key actions businesses can take today

The complaints and issues Irish consumers share online give clear signposts for what insurance companies need to do to improve sentiment.

1. Empower customer service agents

Give your customer service agents the tools they need to help every customer. Ensuring agents have enough information to answer queries, or pass them on to the correct person the first time, drives satisfaction and reduces call centre traffic.

2. Provide proactive updates

Ensuring that regular, valuable updates are provided to clients without first having to be prompted by the client should help to minimise frustration.

3. Use social media as a CX touchpoint

Quick, consistent and supportive social media responses are critical to customer satisfaction and brand reputation. Consumers often use social media as a final attempt to get help from unresponsive brands. But the Irish insurance industry responded to just under 30% of consumer posts, taking an average of over 15.2 hours to do so. Unresponded-to service requests can lead to further online complaints and put off potential customers.

4. Improve online platforms

Slow or inadequate responses on websites drove customer complaints.  On the other hand, people shared public praise for platforms that made simpler and faster through:

  • ease of use

  • clear navigation

  • efficient functionality

  • allowing for poly-renewals and purchases 

  • minimal technical glitches. 

Take the time to ensure online communication processes are appropriately equipped to handle your consumers’ queries.

5. Optimise the claims process

Poor service from assessors or investigators can slow down claims processing and further agitate frustrated consumers. Improve sentiment around the claims process by:

  • monitoring assessors’ or investigators’ performance 

  • continuously re-evaluating assessment parameters to ensure up-to-date processes

  • investigating the customer feedback process for any bottlenecks.

We are here to help you

The experts in PwC’s Customer Experience practice are ready to guide your business through a customer experience transformation. When you’re ready to talk about human-led, tech-powered solutions that drive growth, get in touch.

Insurance sentiment: read more on our CX page

Irish insurers need to improve customer experience

Contact us

Joven Pillay

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 87 164 4253

Darren O'Neill

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

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