I was talking to my father in law last night and he was telling me about an experience he’s had over the last few days with Homeserve, a company who position themselves as Britain’s home emergency and repair experts. He isn’t very ‘handy’ around the house so decided years ago that it was worthwhile arranging some cover so that if ever he needed help he could get it quickly and easily. So ten years ago he arranged this service with Homeserve and has paid them an annual premium of £300 ever since.
He hasn’t needed to use it before but for the first time earlier this week had a problem that he needed their help with. He told me that whilst loading the dishwasher he felt a drip of water on the back of his neck and looking up, saw water dripping out of a light fitting. His inspection upstairs quickly revealed that the toilet was leaking where the trap goes through the floorboards. Unsure about what to do he rang Homeserve and they very helpfully explained how he could stop the problem from becoming any worse by turning off the stop valve. They then, again very helpfully, said that they’d arrange for a plumber to call to find the cause of the leak and put it right. He told me that at this point he was impressed and was congratulating himself on how wise he’d been to arrange the cover.
The next day the plumber called and looked at the toilet. His conclusion was ……that it would be easier to "accidentally crack the toilet bowl" and claim on his home insurance to get it replaced. Note: claim on his home insurance and not on his Homeserve cover. My father in law asked whether the colour and shape of any replacement would match perfectly with the bath and sink, and was then told that the insurance company would pay for everything to be replaced if an exact match couldn’t be found.
Dubious, even with his limited knowledge of DIY, about whether this made sense my father in law thanked the man and said he’d think about it. He then called a friend, who had a friend etc who was a plumber and this new contractor visited later to take a look. His response was that it could be easily fixed and he’sactually done the work this morning for a total of £60. The outcome is that when the repair is done my father in law intends to call Homeserve to cancel the cover. I suspect that what happened was the result of a ‘rogue’ individual rather than a policy at Homeserve but they will obviously suffer the loss of a long term and profitable customer.
There seem to be more and more stories in the press and on TV at the moment about the dishonesty of workers and the impact of their actions on the customer relationship. It’s not hard to find stories of cowboy builders, of dishonest garages, cheating plumbers and the like. And there have also been well publicised examples of bigger issues – mis-sold payment protection insurance being a prime example. I was also told of a problem at a bank in which insurance salesmen had been achieving more sales (and therefore more commission) when selling car insurance by quoting using a cheap postcode area and then changing the postcode on the live system when the policy was set up. As the quoting system didn’t link to the live system it was a scam they ran to reduce premiums and thereby sell more policies. And Homeserve itself has recently been embroiled in a miss-selling scandal with suggestions that staff were selling cover without fully explaining what the customer was paying, or the package they were buying.
Set this alongside the research that Essex Univeristy did recently which concluded that Britain may be facing a future ‘integrity crisis’ and it’s clear that the UK is experiencing a decline in moral standards. The research illustrated that lying, adultery, drug taking, breaking the speed limit, drink-driving, and handling stolen goods are all seen as more acceptable than they were at the turn of the century. The author of the report said "It appears Britons are growing more and more tolerant of low level dishonesty and less inclined to sanction activities which would have been heavily frowned on in the past.” As an aside, isn’t this also the reason that there’s such an issue currently with bogus claims for whiplash following non-existent car crashes? If no-one was responding to the unsolicted phone calls and text messages the companies operating the scams would stop. People must be willing to submit dishonest claims because the problem seems to be growing rather than going away?
This integrity crisis should be a consideration for organisations when thinking about their customer experience delivery. Businesses are going to need to create an organisational culture which compensates for the likelihood that the decline in integrity amongst the population as a whole will be reflected also in its employees. It’s going to become more important for their culture to make any form of dishonesty unacceptable. Integrity must become a core part of it, reflected in policies and procedures, in recruitment and career progression, in reward and recognition, in product development and pricing, in sales practices, in decision making processes and in behaviours – it has to be woven through the fabric of the organisation. It’s critical for delivery of a customer experience that will ultimately mean that customers trust and love the brand.
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