Truth be known - the most frustrating thing about doing business with a company is usually the little things. Those recurring annoyances that drive you crazy until you've finally had enough and you find an alternative.
This has always been the case, but I think the recent Coronavirus pandemic magnified the problem. Some companies thrived during the pandemic and are still thriving.
It's a given that successful companies in any industry have a good product. After that, I believe customer service is what elevates some companies above their competitors. Some companies prioritize customer service and it is integral to their culture and a part of their DNA.
Unfortunately, you often have to buy from a company in order to experience their either good or lacking customer service. That might be okay for trying a restaurant for the first time, but when purchasing pet insurance, that's not ideal.
I'm going to reveal several ways you might get an idea about the priority a company places on customer service in the pet insurance industry.
But, first, I want to go over a bad example and a good example of customer service I've personally experienced in the past month. As you read this, think about similar experiences you've had lately.
Example of bad customer service:
My wife and I stopped at a Wendy's for lunch on the way to one of our grandchildren's soccer games in another town. There were 3 cars ahead of us in the drive-thru. We gave our order and then had to wait about 20 minutes to receive it and one of the orders was wrong. We ended up being a few minutes late to the game. This isn't how "fast food" is supposed to be.
Just as an aside, our recent experience at Chick-fil-A was totally different. Good customer service is definitely part of their culture. If you've used a Chick-fil-A drive-thru, you know it is always a long line, but they have adequate staff and a routine to make sure that the line moves quickly. It's not surprising it has ranked as the best fast-food chain for 7 years in a row!
Example of good customer service:
During routine maintenance at a dealership, we were informed that my wife's car needed a brake job. The car has almost 60,000 miles on it and this is the first time the brakes had needed attention. We tried to schedule this at the dealership, but it was going to be about 6 weeks before they could get to it. Because of a couple of personal referrals my wife got where she works, this week I took my wife's car in to Christian Brothers Automotive. We had scheduled an appointment ahead of time.
Upon arrival, the repair shop's approximately 10 bays were full with mechanics working on cars. There appeared to be quite a few cars in the parking lot possibly also awaiting service. After checking in, and as I was driving out of their parking lot, I received a text that our car had been checked in and I would be notified after they had inspected the brakes with an estimate.
About 45 minutes later, I received a detailed estimate via text message. I was able to simply check a box to approve the repairs and send it back to them. I immediately received a text that the parts were being ordered and I'd receive a text when the repair was completed. About 5 hours after leaving my wife's car with the repair shop, I received a text that the car was ready for pickup with a total amount due.
Needless to say, I was impressed and told them so.
How to evaluate pet insurance company customer service
1) Call the company with several questions. Was someone available to answer your questions? How long did it take for you to talk to a live person? Were you able to get all of your questions answered satisfactorily?
I recently had a user of the Pet Insurance Toolkit email me saying he had narrowed his choice down to 2 companies. He liked the deductible one company offered better, but he repeatedly had trouble getting in touch with them. Therefore, he bought a policy from the other company who always had someone immediately available to answer his questions regardless of when he called.
I've had numerous pet parents tell me that after narrowing their choice down to 2 or 3 companies, calling and talking with a company representative at each company usually sealed the deal because it gave them a sense of the customer service they might expect from each company.
Not all companies are available 24/7. Will there be someone to answer at least general questions about your policy in the middle of the night/weekends/holidays? You might try calling companies at different times of the day/night.
Some companies offer a 24/7 vet helpline to answer medical questions about your pet. This might actually save you a visit to the emergency room.
While not widely available yet 24/7, the ability to verify that a condition is covered should be considered a customer service issue. If you or your vet needed to know if something was covered, regardless of the time of day/night, will there be someone available to verify that for you. When a potentially large claim is involved, knowing this information may be the deciding factor on whether to proceed with treatment or not.
2) Email the company. How long did it take for them to get back with you?
3) Is online chat available? If so, try it. Did it work satisfactorily?
4) Read reviews, but sometimes it is hard to filter reviews for specifically customer service related complaints.
5) Does the company have an app or at least an online customer portal where you can access policy information, pending claims, etc.?
6) How easy is it to file a claim?
7) Will the company acknowledge when they receive a filed claim and keep you informed as to the progress of adjudicating the claim (like the repair shop did when we had my wife's car repaired).
8) Ask how long it usually takes to get reimbursed after a claim is filed? It may only take 2-3 days with some companies (with direct deposit) while it could take a couple of weeks or longer with other companies.
While what a company's pet insurance policy covers, how much it costs you, etc. are important factors you should consider, don't forget to also consider a company's customer service. Once you've narrowed down your list of companies based on other factors important to you, the best way to gauge the level of customer service is to simply call the companies you're seriously considering and ask the questions above and any others you may have.