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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does GEICO need a newsletter?

I’m a GEICO customer. Not because of geckos or cavemen, but because I had been referred by several other customers on the basis of what they described as exceptional service. Luckily, I haven’t ever had to experience much of it, other than bill payments and renewals.

As a customer, they send me a regular enewsletter, entitled “GEICO Connection”.

Trapped on the tarmac in between flights this week, I read it for the first time in my relationship with the company.

The content made me question whether the organization I was doing business with was as customer-centric as I had heard:

A quiz on recall of the television ads. I’ll dismiss the value of the quiz out of hand.

A new site for educating teen drivers on safety, complete with blog, YouTube channel and Facebook fan page. I can appreciate that educating teen drivers is a major factor in keeping them out of accidents, keeping GEICO expenses and my premiums as low as possible. But is this the way to promote the customer behavior they desire? How about a discount for successful completion of an online test (putting that quiz technology wasted on the gecko to good use) or a service premium for those that don’t complete it? Rather than trying to make automobile safety a hip topic for teens (I can just imagine the social pariah one becomes once their Facebook updates that they’ve just become a fan of GEICO Safe Teen Driving) appeal to the real decision maker – the parent footing the bill for insurance.

A chat with some of GEICO’s most loyal customers – 43 year policyholders that have been with GEICO so long they lack perspective on auto insurance alternatives and what makes GEICO the best alternative for them or anyone else.

A sales plug for the American Express Auto Purchase Program, a 3rd party vendor for which GEICO surely gets some referral revenue.

I’m not saying a service provider shouldn’t work to develop a dialogue, or even a relationship with me.

But spending valuable touches on activity that doesn’t create financial incentive, social / relationship, or service customization bonds with me is a waste of resources that could be better used in other retention development platforms.

If GEICO just wants to remind me that it is still around, the gecko and the caveman fill in what reminders my monthly bill leave wanting.


Michael said...

I think you are underestimating the relationship building such a newsletter can establish. For example, you dismissed the value of the quiz about the television ads, yet you end your post stating that "If GEICO just wants to remind me that it is still around, the gecko and the caveman fill in what reminders my monthly bill leave wanting." So the television ads have entered into your mind as being associated with Geico. A simple and fun quiz in the newsletter solidifies that connection and helps continue the goal of the ads, keeping the thought of Geico in your head as a fun company.
I agree with your points about a company creating incentives, relationships, and "service customization bonds," but sometimes just creating a smile is paramount to a company's attempt to retain, as well as attract, customers.

- Michael McMonigle

Chris Reaburn said...

You make a good point absolutely worth exploring. In our rush to create bonds with customers though financial incentive, through socialization or network value, and through customization of the experience, it is easy to forget that part of creating those bonds relies on brand character or personality. If there is no humanity present in the attempts, the bonds created will never be as deep as if it is.

Part of what makes experiences so personal (and the reason ‘customer relationship’ is a relevant term in service businesses) is that the experience is performed largely by people, for people.

Insurance businesses have it almost as hard as utilities in that when everything is going well, those people are several layers removed from a typical customer interaction.

So while the execution / content didn’t strike any chord with me, I do have a greater appreciation for what GEICO is trying to do in personalizing a service experience that has very few opportunities to appear “human” to customers.

Thanks for helping me consider a different angle on it!