Customers continue to flock to social media to complain about customer service and policies at insurer Youi after two Fairfax reports detailed allegations that the insurer has billed customers without consent.
The reports allege the company encouraged staff members to bill customers for policies they had not formally signed up for. The story marks another controversy in Australia’s insurance industry this year, after stories like that of life insurance provider CommInsure stopping policy payouts hit the media in March.
Youi has said in a statement that it “vehemently denies” claims that management would condone sales staff processing policies without customer’s knowledge, and has confirmed that where there was enough information to follow the complaints raised in media reports, those complaints have been resolved.
Since publishing the first report on Saturday, Fairfax media reportedly received more than 100 further messages from customers claiming Youi had chased them with aggressive cold calls, refused to cancel policies or signed them up to policies without consent.
This morning several customers have contacted the company on the Youi Facebook page, complaining about poor customer service and expressing disappointment in the reports.
“As a policyholder I would expect more ethical behaviour from a company trading on a brand ‘we get you’,” said one comment writer.
John Price, lead ombudsman of general insurance at the Financial Services Ombudsman, told SmartCompany many Australians don’t sit down and read insurance policies in detail and that there was still a need for better disclosure from insurers.
“We see disputes for all kinds of things, from denial of claims to policy interpretation, but at the end of the day I think we all have to work together on this one,” he says.
“When negative reports about the insurance industry happens it really just shakes the confidence of consumers in the industry. The financial system inquiry has already called for better disclosure on the part of insurers.”
The Youi allegations is a damning reminder that it’s almost impossible to come back from stories about unethical sales practices, says Sue Barrett of sales advisory Barrett.
“The alleged conduct that we are hearing about is utterly pre-historic,” she says.
“I don’t even know what planet they think they’re on.”
Barrett believes poor practices around sales incentives can be incredibly damaging to a business in the long term – and that it’s important for businesses to remember that competitive sales styles are a dangerous game when it comes to having the customer’s best interests at heart.
“If you pit sales staff against each other, they don’t have the customer’s best interests,” says Barrett.
“Most sales staff want to do the right thing, but if you create an environment where there is intense competition against each other, this drives behaviour down to the lowest common denominator.”
Brand names can also be forever tarnished by stories of poor salesmanship.
“The slogan [‘We get you’] and the name of the company can now be seen as false advertising. It’s going to have a drop in sales either way – people will not forget about these things in a hurry,” Barrett says.
SmartCompany contacted Youi and received a comment from management after this article was originally published. A spokesperson said that customer each complaint is delegated to a specific person to resolve with a customer and that Youi regularly reviews complaint categories to ensure corrective action is taken.