As a Wichita personal injury law firm, we are very familiar with how insurance companies operate and the tactics they use to try and deny claims. Many people, however, do not. It was refreshing to run across the NBC.com article below. It shows how social media, in this case Twitter, sheds some light on how insurance companies, all in the name of improving their bottom line, treat the people they are supposed to be helping. The article is very accurate and you can read it in its entirety by clicking on the link. The blog entry from the woman whose family was killed in the car wreck is also worth reading. It can be seen by clicking on the link in the article.
Lessons from Progressive screw-up: When it’s Twitter vs. lawyers, take Twitter
By Bob Sullivan August 17, 2012, 7:29 am
In the ugly battle of Web users vs. insurance companies, a lot of blood was spilled this week. We’ve known for a while that hell hath no fury like an Internet user scorned. But at the intersection of social media, consumer frustration, anxious lawyers and heavy-handed regulations you’ll find a particularly tricky corner of the Web. Insurance firms, which have
always been a magnet for complaints anyway, lie at precisely this crossroads.
Increased competition has led insurers to employ high-profile marketing gimmicks, like geckos or touchdown dances, in an effort to become household names with friendly reputations. That means it’s become necessary for them to establish a social media presence. Progressive’s “Flo” character, for instance, has her own Facebook page, with hundreds of thousands of fans. But inviting social dialogue sometimes means inviting
trouble, as Flo and her handlers found out the hard way this week.
Progressive encountered a Twitter revolt after the family of a woman killed in a car crash wrote a blog post criticizing the way the firm fought to avoid paying a claim. The post went viral, and the insurance giant then compounded its problems by spitting out automated tweets in response.
Experts who talked about the incident this week said Progressive fell into a trap that often catches large companies as they stumble around the social media world. “The original response sounded genuine,” said Jason Falls, a digital marketing consultant who helped health care firm Humana set up its social media program. “But the fact that they auto-responded the same statement to multiple people showed it was just a copy-and-paste job. More often than not, when that happens, it’s not the technology that’s
to blame. You can blame it on the legal and compliance teams saying, ‘You can say this and only this.’ It makes you look cold and insensitive.”
Both sides have willingly joined the insured-vs-insurers Internet fight. Insurance firms increasingly use the Web as a weapon against fraud, while consumers band together to demand better service, or to appeal denials of coverage. Both can claim victories. There are plenty of stories of insurance investigators who catch disability recipients bragging about completing triathlons on their Facebook pages or tweeting about a great trip to Paris while claiming depression. Meanwhile, earlier this month, a social media firestorm caused Aetna to back down and agree to cover colon cancer treatment costs for an Arizona patient who’d already exceeded his lifetime cap. A flurry of angry tweets really can make a big company reverse course.
‘Shame on you’
Fall said he’s used to seeing nasty comments pile up on insurance company blogs, Facebook pages and in Twitter. “It does make me cringe, but I also think it comes with the territory,” he said. It doesn’t take long to find cringe-worthy comments on insurance company social media sites. Even days after the initial Progressive firestorm, comments left on Progressive’s otherwise happy “Flo the Progressive Girl” Facebook page were dominated by vitriol: “Shame on you,” says one. “Has Flo ever wondered why Progressive tries to get killers off the hook?” says another. Many writers called on the actress who plays Flo to quit.
Flo’s hardly alone, however. When American Medical News did a survey of health insurance Twitter accounts last year, it found a never-ending stream of complaints:
*”Dear Cigna: How about, for the new year, you do something radical – like processing claims without 500 phone calls from me?”
* “Dear Humana, you’ve ruined my day. Worse, my wife’s day. Way to CYA. I’m paying you to cover mine.”
*”@Anthemhealth, so far u didn’t send me my ID cards … kept me on hold for 25 mins and ur site isn’t lettng me register. Nice service.”
Insurance, necessarily, involves rejection. When you are in the business of frequently disappointing people, and making sure your rejections are lawsuit-proof, it’s nearly impossible to run a free-spirited social media shop. Rachel Poor, who runs the social media marketing firm Thread Communications, said all heavily regulated industries face the Progressive dilemma. “I think social media is still a sort of an enigma (to them). They all want to be there, they are told they should be there, but these companies are not used to people talking back to them in such a public forum,” she said. “Ultimately, I think it will require insurance agencies to change the way they do business.”