An assessment of the South African insurance industry by DataEQ during the lockdown found that insurers’ Covid-19 marketing and campaign content, as well as debt relief measures, help drove consumer praise.
While reputational content was well received, operational issues emerged as an area that required improvement. Covid-19 exacerbated entrenched service issues such as turnaround and resolution time as insurers struggled to keep up with the demand, specifically with regards to claims. Despite some initial positivity around proposed debt relief measures, Covid-19 conversation exposed weaknesses among insurers relief offerings which customers felt were better in theory than in practice.
Industry Net Sentiment improved in response to Covid-19 CSI campaigns and sponsorships
Net Sentiment for Covid-19 related conversation peaked during the week of 18-24 May. Customers and media boosted positivity by sharing and responding to content about insurer initiatives. Positivity for insurers was largely driven by reputational content, whereas negativity spoke to Customer Experience.
Negativity was associated with topics such as turnaround time, advice given by a brand representative and no response received.
Covid-19 relief was well received in theory but customers were disappointed with the application
Customers responded positively to announcements of Covid-19 relief from their insurers but were disillusioned by the application of these offers. Customers complained about not being able to contact the insurer to request or follow-up on payment relief. Other complaints cited the lack of proactive contact from insurers, debiting of full premiums despite relief offers, and the limited available information and limited time frames of relief measures.
The conversation themes that co-occurred with Covid-19 relief measure conversation
Charge disputes comprised 8.4% of Covid-19 complaints
Refunds and discounted premiums for Covid-19 relief caused confusion and contention among insurance customers. This was a key issue driving complaints about charge disputes. The process associated with charge disputes was problematic. Customers received conflicting information and struggled to get clear communication from their insurers. Other charge dispute complaints saw customers requesting payment holidays and discounted premiums citing financial difficulties and decreased risk due to the nationwide lockdown.
Insurers struggled to keep up with Covid-19 related claims
6.6% of Covid-19 conversation related to the claims process and the majority (71.4%) of these mentions were negative. Turnaround time was the driving topic behind Covid-19 claims complaints. Customers criticised the slow service from their insurers in processing claims and highlighted the challenges of getting hold of their insurers. Many tried a variety of contact channels including email and the call centre before taking to social media.
Some customers expressed disappointment in claims being rejected, specifically those related to loss of income caused by the national lockdown. Customers viewed this as another way for insurers to avoid paying out, using their current situation to support the general discourse commonly seen in the insurance industry.
Contribution of conversation themes to total sentiment-bearing conversation
Long resolution time behind 76.3% of Market Conduct complaints
Long waits and a lack of feedback was even more frustrating for customers with issues requiring assistance, specifically during the lockdown. 14.8% of market conduct mentions accused insurers of unethical behaviour. Customers viewed the actions of their insurers as unethical and 1.5% threatened to legal action. These complaints mostly linked to insurers’ response to the Covid-19 and an alleged lack of sensitivity for customers experiencing financial distress.
Delivering responsive digital customer service is vital for insurers to grow customer satisfaction and reduce churn. Insurers must prioritise digital channels, like social media, as platforms for interactions and complaints resolution with clients - and not simply for marketing purposes. Effective social customer service will allow insurers to unburden traditional service channels like call centres and monitor and resolve high-risk market conduct complaints before they cause significant reputational damage online and are lodged with complaints authorities.
For the period of 10 May to 9 June 2020, DataEQ retrieved 9 346 public social media mentions about five South African insurers. To carry out sentiment analysis a random sample of 6 511 mentions were processed through DataEQ’s Crowd for evaluation and verification, giving a 95% confidence interval and an overall margin of error 0.7%. A topic analysis was applied to achieve a granular understanding of the specific issues driving sentiment. A sample of 2 308 sentiment-bearing was sent to DataEQ’s Crowd for topic allocation using a pre-established list of insurance topics.