Lucky you’re with AAMI

6 minute read

Unless you have been hiding under a rock of late you will no doubt have heard that AAMI are closing all of its offices across the country. Some may be disappointed that they lack the customer service and will move on to other insurance agencies others will just grin and bear it. What will be interesting is if AAMI continue to push their marketing (TV, Web) even stronger after this changeover or whether they just slowly pack up shop altogether.

Spokesman for AAMI Reuben Aitchison told ABC news that it is not worth keeping the branches open because such a small number of people use them.

“There’s been significant growth in the internet channel,” he is quoted as saying. “The amount of business and transactions that is now going through our branches has dwindled to the point that it now represents less than 2 per cent of our revenue.”

Reading between the lines just on this above quote – it is clear that most people do not go to AAMI branches to join the company – however this does not tell us the full story, how many people go into the branches for customer service? Far more than 2% I would guess.

This could be a fatal mistake from AAMI and its parent company Suncorp. I would hazard to guess that retirees are the bain of their existence and suck up most of their customer service time in branches across the country. Young people however, historically are immune to customer service and expect to be treated this way.

Customer Service

Customer Service is now seen by many large companies as a pain in the derriere. Ever tried contacting Google, Yahoo or the Microsoft web services team? The truth is customer service is a thing of the past. Most web companies today cannot afford to service clients who want direct conversations and you will find that as years go by – those wanting to talk to a customer service representative will pay a premium.

Google as an example have always handled enquiries online and you would be hard pressed to speak to a customer service representative unless of course you spend a great deal of money on Google Adwords. The success of Google comes from their software being relatively easy to use and backed up by community support and pretty extraordinary online resources.

If you ever contact Google with an enquiry it will simply redirect you to a help file and in many cases will not even respond directly to an inquiry. It is up to you to learn or be left behind.

These companies also affect small web development firms such as ourselves as we have found a large spike in phone enquiries on how to use 3rd party software like Google’s web services.

Annoying trends has always annoyed me because they charge clients a fee to feed from companies like Agentpoint, HubOnline (now owned by REA), Portplus and other feed providers – when we basically take over their customer service and save them time and money. You can only do this when you are a monopoly or a duopoly. Competition not only breeds better quality software but also great customer service!

Recently, we as a small company have found that less than 5% of our customers take up to 90% of our customer contact resources with many enquiries are relating to services and software we do not own and should not have to support. We like others will no doubt in the future separate our customer service to web, email and make these users pay a premium over others.

Another annoying trend which has come into existence is having to purchase warranties for the so called quality products we buy. In the past companies backed up their products with great warranties trying to prove to you that they are better than their competitors because of the quality of those products. You only need to go to the likes of Harvey Norman to see this play out. I always make it a point to let the service representative know that this is not the way to do business, although I think Harvey Norman and the like make a killing on these ‘value’ added fees. About the only industry that now still thumps their chest about multi year warranties are car companies and this is because competition is fierce and customer expectations through past experiences are high.

In short we are all to blame because we collectively have created monsters that are shareholder graded only on revenues and profits and rarely customer service. This again is why I (and you should too) will always support quality real estate portals that compete with the likes of REA and Domain.

Currently our company (and most others like Portplus) support our customers by feeding to a multitude of portals – even though each one costs us time and money to continue to support.

What you can do?

In short, nothing much, more and more companies will direct you to online support and help and you will need to learn how to use software or services from these companies yourself. You will find that most web companies are already web based only with support and you will need to learn the software you use.

Learn or Pay your Front Office

I have made it very clear in the past that your front office person is probably one of your most important team members and you should start to pay them accordingly. These are the people that are on the frontline, more often than not these are the people that update your website and real estate systems. The turnover of front office staff is often high and you can only look at your company to blame for this. Get someone great and add these sites (most should be relevant) to your manual for front office personal – even better still take some time to learn what these services do and how they can improve your company going forward.

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  • John Gordon
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 10:16 am 0Likes

    This sad, but so true, Front Office staff with years of corporate knowledge about all aspects of the company and who genuinely enjoy dealing face to face with customers are a redundant species.
    Why pay someone when a computer can do it? Gone is the adage that you should treat customers “the same way you would like to be treated”, but then, the big bosses have flunkies that they talk to face to face to fix their problems!

  • Peter Ricci
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 10:21 am 0Likes

    Very true John, however a computer cannot do empathy, understanding and trust!

  • Vic
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 11:50 am 0Likes

    Harvey Norman railled against on line shopping for years, to the extent that Gerry Harvey sought government intervention. Eventually he had to join the move to on line sales and service. How many Harvey Norman shops will exist in their current format in two years time.
    Having said this the banks rushed out in the early 90’s to establish phone banking for sales and on line transaction banking. Have a look at what they learnt over the past 20 years. It is not what genuine valued customers wanted; and more tellers and more customer service staff are appearing at branches.

    It moves in cycles- put the service where people are, take them away for cost cutting, bring them back.

    In 10 years from now some one will come up with a Eureka moment and say – “Hey why don’t we get service staff on the front line we may get more sales and retain more customers”. Have seen it all before, before you were even a twinkle in your parents’ eyes Peter.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm 0Likes

    Interesting to note that with some real estate franchises they insist on controlling the online side of the businesses to the detriment of the individual offices who get to learn nothing about the machinations of online. I like how the likes Google make individuals problem solve as it makes us learn more.

    In many ways it’s much like the boy who leaves home after his mother has done all his washing, ironing and cooking – he has trouble fending for himself in the big real world.

    The more I see and play in this online world the more I learn – as against those who don’t want to learn because they think they already know it all.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 4, 2011 at 7:50 pm 0Likes

    The growth of online shopping means a reduction in demand for retail property and a drop in values of same…………eventually.

  • Phil Kells
    Posted June 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm 0Likes

    I agree with you Rob – things move fast and you have to keep learning. I’ve been involved in online/digital etc for a long time and I’m constantly learning something new – it’s one of the things I love about it most.

    The movment online is not all about cost cutting. We certainly try to make our products simple to use and accessible, yes does it help reduce our support costs through good design, but we believe that having a product that is well designed and intuitive make people enjoy using it – turning customers from users to advocates.

    More often that not it’s the front office staff that determine the success of a self service style product with in a business – as the day to day user they see costs, benefits and ultimately value first hand, daily.

  • Robert Simeon
    Posted June 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm 0Likes

    “We fear – what we don’t understand” which explains why the real estate industy is so backward when it comes to embracing real estate technologies.

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