Pink pigs will fly before I invest in Aviva, no matter what the experts say

If you want to know how good a business is, try being a customer.  Then ask if they’re running things for their benefit – or yours

Recently I transferred my paltry assets to a new home, mainly because the people there write in English, but now I have to decide where to invest. This prompted me to start reading the editorial in the financial press rather than marvelling at how incredibly bad the ads are.

And so it came to pass that I noticed some experts reckon Aviva is a good bet.

Setting aside the fact I doubt the perspicacity of any insurance firm that decides to rename itself so as to sound like a mineral water, chemical or cosmetic manufacturer, I have given this some thought. This was made easier because a few weeks ago my trusty advisor found what I can only call a rogue insurance policy lying around among the debris of my finances.

It was an Aviva policy serving no useful purpose except, no doubt, to enrich whoever sold it to me – and Aviva , of course – and it seemed I could cash it in so as to help one of my family buy a home.  I do not know whether what then happened was a deliberate plan on the part of Aviva to frustrate me at every turn, but that is what they managed – utterly and consummately.

First I rang a very helpful lady. She could only help me after I had listened to a patronising recording, pressed some buttons and answered a number of questions, the answers to which I had forgotten since 1997 when the policy was initiated. She then joined me in regretting the loss of that excellent firm, Norwich Union, now part of the Aviva behemoth before promising to send off the relevant form immediately.

After four days I received and filled in the very long form answering questions to many of which I assume they already knew the answers from their records.

One small detail – a signature – was missing in my response, so they sent the form again after a few more days. I had to fill in the whole lot once more, which means they were too lazy to put in the details they already had.

Then another very helpful person rang me to tell me something. He could only do this after I had listened to a patronising recording, pressed some buttons and answered a number of questions, the answers to which I had forgotten since 1997 when the policy was initiated. He then said the money couldn’t go into the account I had specified.

This was despite the fact that it was the very account from which they had been receiving payments, having originally specified that they would like any money to go to the account that had made the payments. The problem was the account was called a Private Business Account, which they assumed meant a business account when it should be a personal account. In fact it is a personal account, as I told him,

If that were a problem, why had they not asked about it before? It was no problem when they were taking the money. So I rang another helpful person to discuss this conundrum. He could only do this after I had had listened to a patronising recording, pressed some buttons and answered a number of questions, the answers to which I had forgotten since 1997 when the policy was initiated. After a while he put me on hold while he talked to the relevant “team”. And left me there.

So I rang another person, who could only talk to me after I had listened to a patronising recording, pressed some buttons and answered a number of questions, the answers to which I had forgotten since 1997 when the policy was initiated. She tried to put me through to “the team leader”, but the “team” must have been having an away match.

Half an hour later a helpful lady rang me to reveal what had happened. I had to press no buttons nor listen to a recording. This was disconcerting, for I had become like one of Pavlov’s dogs and almost missed pressing the buttons and so forth. But in any case she could only help me after I had answered a number of questions, the answers to which I had forgotten since 1997 when the policy was initiated.

She then told me they would “make an exception for me” in respect of the private business account – and accept my word. What did she mean, I asked. Why was it an exception to believe a customer? I got quite excited, but all she would  say, like a talking clock, was that they were making an exception by taking my word.

All this reminded me of H. L. Mencken’s splendid remark: “The older I get the more I admire and crave competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology.”

It is sadly missing where it matters at Aviva. The only possible reason they do OK can be that other insurance firms are even worse. I am not sure this is true. My experience with Standard Life suggested they were as bad in similar ways, but not worse.

There is a great business opportunity going begging in the insurance field, I suspect.

 

 

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6 Responses to Pink pigs will fly before I invest in Aviva, no matter what the experts say

  1. Tried talking to your mobile carrier recently?
    My experience in this country (the burned land of Oz) is that they make Aviva look not just competent, but truly customer focussed.

    • admin says:

      Technology is the curse that afflicts all these mobile firms. That and the fact that the overpaid bozos who run them a) never try being a customer – an experience which induces suicidal tendencies and b) think because they were lucky enough to get into a business which was growing like topsy they are geniuses. It is not hard to make money if what you sell costs the square root of sod-all and can be sold at insanely high margins.

  2. peter hobday says:

    The copywriter is the condom by which the public enter these companies. It is probably painful for them. So they do it themselves. Happy New Year everyone!

  3. Nevil Speechley says:

    I empathise with both Drayton and Allen Roberts. It took BT and Virgin six months to export two numbers from one to the other, and then they screwed it up.
    I had spent over 24 hours on the phone trying to get them to act like communication companies to complete this simple task. It was a waste of time.

  4. Ingrid Wren says:

    When our brand new, state of the art digital TV was stolen in a break-in some years ago, my husband did battle with our insurance company to replace it as quickly as possible. Following different sets of advice from different people within the organisation, he did as instructed. It went on for what seemed like weeks. The upshot of it all was that they made us feel as if we were the criminals, not the victims in this event.

    When our insurance was due for renewal (we had been with them for many years) we looked for a local firm and switched over to them. We thought that if we could walk into a local office and talk to a real person face to face we would be better off. We were right. They have been brilliant. And we don’t mind paying a little bit more for good local service.

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