Canadian Underwriter

Going down the rabbit hole of customer reviews

February 27, 2023   by David Gambrill

Rabbit running into a rabbit hole

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Before asking customers for online reviews of their insurance purchases, brokers and insurers should give their clients 5 to 13 days to reflect on the experience and the product, a recent Harvard Business Review article suggests.

“If they’re asked to provide a review too early, they can feel pressured and rushed, and they might opt not to send in a review at all,” Miyeon Jung, Sunghan Ryu, Sang-Pil Han, and Daegon Cho wrote in a recent blog post. “One survey has revealed that the majority of online customers today take at least two days after getting a product to post a review, while only 8% choose the same day.”

And that’s for customer reviews of products leading to immediate gratification, whereas with an insurance product, it is hoped the person won’t be in the kind of predicament in which they would need to use it at all.

So, how long should you wait to before asking a consumer to review your product or service?

“Our findings suggest that the following approach is best,” the authors wrote. “Figure out how long, on average, it took customers to post reviews for your product or service in the past. Check to see if the average amount of time has passed. If no, do not send a review reminder. You don’t want to interfere with your customers. If yes, then send a review reminder to the customer.”

In the case of insurance, there is some question about whether to encourage customer input at all. Since many insurance policyholders place great stock in their product bailing them out of life’s most difficult situations, the expectations of the product are often higher than they’d be for something like a blender. It’s more likely that high expectations will be thwarted, which leads to bad reviews for insurance companies.

Related: Online client reviews can help your brokerage

Toronto company InsurEye compiles independent customer reviews for various financial and insurance products across all major Canadian insurance providers. They show the average five-star ratings for insurers providing auto, car, motorcycle and travel insurance.

Of the 16 Canadian insurance service providers that received more than 100 customer reviews of their products and services, as complied on InsurEye, only three — Belair, Insurance Corporation of B.C., and Allstate — received as high as two stars out of five. The rest received customer reviews of 1.5 stars out of five.

Berry Insurance, a U.S. independent broker based in Massachusetts, shared a blog post of what to make of online reviews of insurance carriers. The brokerage understands the importance of online product reviews to people making decisions, but consumers do need to ask themselves some questions about the online reviews.

“Occasionally, when we pick the [insurance] company we think is best for a client, they express concerns about some reviews they’ve seen online, and understandably so,” Berry Insurance wrote. “We’re glad our clients are doing their homework and want to make sure they have great coverage, but we also know there is sometimes more to the story when it comes to bad reviews.”

Basically, customers should ask themselves who is actually writing the online review. Their anonymous nature makes it hard to be certain. It could even be a competitor writing the review, or the same disgruntled consumer writing under multiple account names.

Another factor is the mood or motivation of the reviewer. As Berry Insurance noted, sometimes when a person is mad about something, the first place they’ll go to let off steam is the internet. They may not have had the time (or inclination) to find out from the insurance company exactly what happened. They just wanted to sound off.

Berry lists frequency and consistency as two indicators of how much stock to place in your consumer reviews.

“If a company has hundreds of great reviews, and one bad one, I wouldn’t let it concern you too much,” said Berry’s blog post. “It could be from a fluke situation or untrustworthy source.

“If a company has a bunch of negative reviews, all with different complaints, that might send up some red flags. The number of bad reviews is concerning, but if they’re all saying different things, it’s hard to determine if the company does have any specific, widespread issues.

“If a company has several bad reviews, all with the same complaint, you can probably take them seriously.”


Feature photo courtesy of Faber