Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Renewing Aviva Insurance - One of life's little dramas...

Newly re branded Aviva may discover their name change won't make their customers any happier - if my experience is typical.

In fact according to Aviva scores 0.9 out of 5 based on 40 reviews. Common complaints are endless delays, the time it takes to speak to someone and the accuracy of the information they provide.

The sad truth about insurance is you only know if it's any good when you come to make a claim. Fortunately my home hasn't burned to the ground but I've just discovered why I might not want to rely on Aviva to help.

You won't find Aviva on any price comparison websites. Instead they offer existing customers the lure of £20 in M&S vouchers to renew their policy. My mother was excited when she mentioned the free vouchers. 'Good luck with those' I told her, 'mine never arrived'. Instead I showed her how offered a Churchill policy which is £160 cheaper. Is that the one with the nice dog on the telly? she asked.

My M&S vouchers failed to arrive when I renewed my Aviva home insurance policy 11 weeks ago in August.

'It's easy to renew'
Aviva's renewal letter

On 18th August I have a long call with Aviva's Mark to try and reduce my premium by a pound to last year's level. Then I paid the premium in a single payment by Mastercard.

So that's the insurance renewed for another year, but where are the M&S vouchers?

On 24th October I telephone Aviva and speak to Ashley to ask what's happened to my £20 M&S vouchers. 'We're sorry, I'll send you a replacement by recorded delivery, you'll have them within 7 days" she reassures me.

By the 4th November, 11 days later, still no vouchers. After a long wait with serious sounding recorded announcements warning me to tell only the truth, I speak to Aviva's Gerard at the Glasgow call centre. He doesn't know why Ashley would have told me replacement vouchers would be sent, they don't do that from Glasgow, but he can send a cheque.

I mention that I don't seem to have the renewed policy document either . No problem he can email it over. 'The policy is definitely in force?' I ask. 'Oh yes, don't worry, it would show as lapsed otherwise.'

Gerard's email doesn't arrive either, so I check my policy on Aviva's website. The premium is showing as charged, but the effective date is showing today's date, 4th November, not the 1st September when it fell due, which worries me.

So 2 hours later I make another call to Aviva's Gerard - in case you're counting that's my 4th telephone call for this policy. 'I did send the email' he says. 'Can you send me a hard copy in the post?' No problem (this hasn't arrived either) 'The policy is definitely in force?' 'Oh yes, don't worry about that'. It says 'charged' not 'paid' I mention. 'Don't worry we've had some issues with our accounts department'. What 'issues' I wonder?

The next day, Friday, good as their word Aviva send me a cheque for £20. But now I'm worried about my policy, and I check my Mastercard statement for August. Aviva have not collected any money from my card.

On Saturday there's another envelope from Aviva.

"Thank you for your telephone call regarding your Aviva home insurance. I can confirm there was an error when taking your renewal payment of £79 when trying to renew your Buildings insurance" "If you could call us back on the number below we can try taking payment again."

Don't you love Aviva's use of language? ''When trying to renew' we can 'try again'. No fewer than 4 times I have been reassured the policy is in force, but now Aviva can 'confirm' that there was an error. And I'm about to discover the policy number is wrong. You wouldn't want to be arguing an insurance claim with these people would you?

Now follows my 5th telephone call to Aviva - the longest at 44 minutes. Almost as long as an episode of ITV's drama mini-series 'Collision' which Aviva is sponsoring this week with the slogan "Aviva - for life's little dramas". Aviva is scripting it's very own little drama in my life.

My 5th telephone call fails at the first hurdle. Aviva uses voice recognition technology to process callers. When I say the policy number on the letter and announce my family name 3 times the system draws a complete blank and I am shuffled onto a long wait being reminded how important it is that I'm accurate with the facts I supply Aviva about my insurance.

While on hold I realise why. Aviva has written to me quoting the WRONG policy number. Accuracy is so important when it comes to insurance isn't it?

Now I'm speaking to Aviva's Charles, also in Glasgow. He's never heard of Mark B who has written to me, and although I ask for my call to be put through to a manager he still spends 15 minutes trying to read the notes himself. I tell him I will be writing to Aviva's Chief Executive, so I suggest he escalates my call.

Now I'm speaking to manager Valerie. I explain to Valerie that all I have tried to do is renew my policy. If I had not called about the missing vouchers Aviva would not have noticed their mistake and I would have been without insurance. 'That's why we record all the telephone calls' she says - 'for your protection'. In that case could you listen to all 5 of my calls and tell me what has gone so seriously wrong?' I ask.

Valerie promises that she will, and while she investigates the policy will remain in force. It's Wednesday and I'm still waiting to hear from Valerie. I'm not holding my breath...

On Monday another letter arrives from Aviva, this time it's headed 'OVERDUE DEBT - NO REMINDER WILL BE ISSUED'.

Now Aviva threaten that if I don't pay the premium by the 12th November they will cancel my policy.

Aviva - they certainly know how to write 'One of life's little dramas'.

So here's the big question - if Aviva can't renew my policy without a glitch, don't notice during 4 separate telephone calls they've made a mistake, get my policy number wrong in correspondence, lie about sending out vouchers and then threaten me with cancellation would you trust Aviva to look after your home?

Now I'm emailing the script from my 'little drama' to Andrew Moss, Aviva's Chief Executive...perhaps he knows how this one ends?