Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Australia's turbo-charged weather the true test for insurance brands

I survived a shellacking on Saturday. Stuck on Racecourse Road, Flemington, on Melbourne's fringe and just in time to catch the cutting edge of the worst storm in 40 years. To be absolutely correct, I didn't cop the hammering, my trustee VeeDub Passat did. Hail stones the size of golf balls thundered down like buck shot on the rear of my car.

While the heavens created a new-look, 'hammered' finish on the duco, you couldn't blame those whose cars clustered under a nearby railway bridge sheltering from the hail for holding the traffic up. However, they failed to count on the storm's second wave, which literally surged down the street and flooded the dip into which they had crammed. Was that a vengeful smirk on my face when I saw their exhaust pipes bubbling through the water as they made their escapes to higher ground and... into the hail? (How many 'Hail' Marys for that smirk?)

It showed there was literally nowhere to hide from that 20-minute attack and plenty of time to think about where you had filed the insurance policy against which you would surely claim in the days ahead.

I made my call today - to AAMI. Yes, that's right the company that realised a couple of years ago that the call centre 'Amy' had finally outlived public credulity by not ageing for a decade or more. Now we have a new Amy and today's task was to evaluate whether she'd still smile and 'keep our promises' when I lodged my claim.

I was pleased that, not only was the 'Amy' who answered very pleasant but, through lively and fresh engagement, gave the impression that I had been her first call for the day. Perhaps I caught the change of shift, but I think not. That would be an uncharacteristially ungenerous thought on my part...LOL.

The ultimate test for insurance companies is claims procedure and, as always after these major events, the tabloid TV current affairs shows will be looking for opportunities to feature rain-soaked, dispossessed families dudded by heartless insurance companies. It will be interesting to see how the insurance industry performs under the weight of an estimated $200 million (and rising) of claims.

I have no doubt most valid claims will be duly processed. I have even less doubt that the letters informing us of our premium increases next year will also be duly processed - aka the cost-recovery process. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Just get the cars and houses repaired, we'll argue about repaying the money to our insurers later.

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