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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Is New Really More Important Than Loyal?

A few weeks ago I received the annual renewal notice for my roadside assistance for my car. I have written here before about the shenanigans that inevitably occur when this comes about however this year's take the biscuit.

It is an expensive time of year as the car's MOT, service, annual fully comprehensive insurance, road fund license and roadside assistance all fall due within a couple of weeks of each other. Even if they didn't I would still query insurance premiums as a matter of course but this heavy lump of expenditure makes this process even more important.

As usual the premium for my roadside recovery had increased by a fair amount even though I had not had any call outs. I rang the call centre, in itself a chore ... pressing this number then that one, listening to awful music then, finally, a human voice. If I were cynical I might think that the run around to get through to an agent is deliberate, carried out in an attempt to wear the caller down and hence make them more amenable to a refusal to discuss premiums.

In the past the agent has looked at my history, checked the past year's premium and with a little cajoling from my side has reduced my renewal to a fair increase on the previous year. This time however the agent, who had perhaps missed their customer service training, struggled to be polite lest alone listen to my query. At the end of the day if I do not get a reduction in premium I am unlikely to move provider as I have been with this one for many years. This encounter, however, prompted me to ring off and look at competitors, not least because the agent told me that if I did not like my premium I could look somewhere else.

So I did. And I discovered that I could take out a new premium with one of the country's largest suppliers of roadside assistance at a about half the cost of my renewal. I went as far as getting through to the payment page when I decided to call my current company back. Don't ask me why. Most likely down to my reluctance to change from a company that across the years, up to this juncture, had served me well.

So call back I did. Thankfully it was a different agent who gave me the same message - there was no movement on the premium possible, the difference being that he did it in the manner I would expect - politely, explaining why he could not better the offer, empathising when I shared the premium I could get as a new customer of the bigger supplier, and apologising for his colleague's surly attitude.

It was he who suggested that we both look at the same time at a quote on his company's website for a new customer. And lo and behold, a premium at pretty much the same level as the other company. Thinking outside the box he asked me to hold on whilst he spoke to his supervisor as what he wanted to do was unorthodox however he could not see any reason why it could not be done in order to retain my business - he wanted to cancel my long-standing membership which was offering me no financial benefit and open a new one for me at the 'new customer' price. Would I mind holding? Of course not!

Five minutes later and he was signing me up to a new membership at less than half the price of my existing one that carried all my no claims bonuses. I left a happy customer; they had retained a loyal one thanks to the initiative of an engaged agent who not only listened but heard what I was saying and who himself believed that it is important to respect customer loyalty.

Since when was loyalty so unrewarded? I realise that many people these days swop and change suppliers of everything from roadside assistance to their domestic gas supply each year however there is surely still a large market like myself who do not want this hassle.

We are happy to pay a little bit more to stay where we are. What we are not happy to be is ripped off for our loyalty.I fully appreciate that any business needs new customers to survive, however not at the expense of their existing ones.

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