May 4, 2015 by Sara Tatelman & Jeff Pearce
The two voices on the recording are both British, since hey, the call took place in Britain. The staffer who calls up the young man keeps his voice well-modulated, gentle. He’s rung the fellow up to tell him in so many polite words—especially since they’re both British—that he’s a bad driver. “The nature of the call isn’t to have a go at you or anything like that—it’s just to kind of check that you’re aware of the feedback and look at kind of giving you a little bit more advice and kind of information how to improve it?”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine.”
“With regards to your braking, how do you think your braking is?” “Uh…” There’s a very awkward pause. Then: “Obviously, it’s not very good…”
But James doesn’t rush to agree. He’s gently guiding our wayward young driver towards an epiphany. “What do you think you might be doing wrong? Any ideas?”
The driver has to think about it. “Leaving it too late, I—yeah…”
James agrees, and with his voice still soothing, says that “we’re finding a lot of people…just not paying enough attention [to] the road ahead, and then seeing things late, and having to really hit the brakes hard, so—”
“We’re finding that can be really common on familiar routes that people are driving. So do you drive to work or to college or anything like that?”
“Yeah, yeah—I drive to work, yeah.”
Now James chats gently about how taking that route five days a week, it’s easy “to slip into autopilot a little bit.” By the time he’s wrapping up, the target of his modest one-man intervention is complimenting him on pointing out his faults.
“What I’ll do,” says James, “is I’ll keep an eye on your scores and your feedback over the next month, see how you get on with it, and then if it is still a problem, I can always give you another call or be in contact and just give you some more examples and a bit more information…” Sounds vaguely like a counseling session with Social Services, but it’s really an example of a coaching call from Ingenie, a UK auto insurer that launched in Ontario in March. With Aviva as their lead underwriter, Ingenie focuses on drivers between 16 and 24 and offers discounts of up to 35 percent based on telematics-derived driving scores. If you’ve got a lead foot or forget what stop signs are for, your discounts disappear. You might also get a call from someone like James, often a young psychologist or a newly graduated psych major at their Driver Behaviour Unit. “Straight off the bat,” says Richard King, Ingenie’s smooth-talking founder and CEO, “we say, ‘We’re not judge and jury.’ We’re not here to tell you off. We’re here because we’re on your side. The statistics, the data have shown you have a very high chance of having a crash, and a potentially serious crash because of the speeds you’re doing or your behaviour.”
King claims the Driver Behaviour Unit staff call one percent of Ingenie drivers; of those, they manage to speak with 70 percent, and 90 percent change their behaviour. He emphasizes that while their target market is mainly teenagers and young adults, they won’t be rushing to blab about bad driving scores to Mom and Dad. Still, many parents of underage teenagers do get copied on the Twitterstyle summaries sent out for each 10-day driving period. And no parent gets to use the company like a PI—Ingenie won’t report on where clients go. “We would become the most hated brand overnight,” says King. “They’ll be hitting social media saying, ‘Avoid Ingenie at all costs.’”
The reports instead focus on speed, acceleration, braking and cornering, and the company says it has the lofty goal of prompting new drivers and their parents to talk, not argue, over driving habits. King claims his firm has “proven that if you get to somebody right at the beginning of their driving career, you can have a dramatic impact on their driving DNA.”
With all that attention paid to psychology and even neuroscience research, perhaps it’s no surprise that King himself is charming. Making his case in a well-modulated, gentle voice, he says Ingenie’s positive reinforcement and personalized feedback can counteract negative driving role models and ultimately lead to safer roads.
Maybe. But surely the company has had its share of failures. Surely not everybody takes that polite phone call so well. What do you do with them?
“What you tend to find in that situation is that they leave you,” says King. While the company has failed to change that particular driver’s behaviour, “what we tend to find is we don’t have to do any really severe intervention. They end up leaving us, and they go to be insured without a [telematics] box.” They were, after all, a bad risk anyway. “Your ideal scenario is you want to change their behaviour, but also if you can’t… you want them off the book, because they’re going to ruin it for everybody else in the community.”
Ingenie argues that its research showed the high cost of insurance was the biggest factor in preventing young drivers from getting their own car. When young Ontarians currently apply for insurance, “it’s less about how they’re driving and what their driving experience is,” says Lorie Phair, CEO of Ingenie Canada, “and more about their age, their sex and their marital status. That changes at twenty-five.”
Ingenie seems to have an “if we build it, they will come” approach. King says young people “know what car they want, and they know that Mom and Dad might buy it for them, but they can’t get insurance on it.” So don’t expect to see any Ingenie billboards or TV spots in Canada soon. Google might well be their best friend. “That’s mainly where they’re going to find Ingenie—they’re going to find Ingenie mainly via social media or via Google.”
But their website also has to appeal to parents as well, “because they’re going to be paying for it.” He says his company gives a lot of advice to parents about what to do with the driving feedback data. “The last thing we want you to do is to go and castigate your son or daughter or take the car away because they’re driving recklessly.” King says it’s all about having the right type of conversation.
And while Ingenie is aimed at a young demographic, King promises “we don’t try and be a cool brand. An insurance company trying to be cool is going to look like Dad dancing at a wedding.”
Copyright 2015 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the April 2015 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine
This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.