Auto Insurance: Selling to you just ain’t worth it!
My motorcycle insurance expires in 2 days, so I went down to “Insurance Alley” to renew and to learn a few more expat lessons. I did this a year ago, and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was; so I expected another quick in-and-out experience. But since I couldn’t remember which office was “mine”, I stumbled into a different office (these offices are sort of stuck in behind more prominent businesses, so you have to navigate trash heaps, construction remains and narrow stairways to actually get there). The agent there took a quick look at my current policy, and then just handed it back to me, “This doesn’t expire for 2 more days!”, and promptly turned his attention to other, more pressing matters (I think he was reading a newspaper).
Oh well, no need to force myself upon this busy man. So I headed for the door, and, on my way out noticed a nice sign that said, “Please Renew Policy Before Expiration“. Must be a matter of minutes or hours; certainly not DAYS!
I went to another office (they’re all nice and close to each other), and found a very friendly agent (I think he remembered me because I renewed my friend’s car insurance here a few months ago, and chatted with this man at that time). Yes, he was quite warm and friendly with the greetings. He also remarked that I had 2 more days, then explained that I needed a photo copy of my current policy. My singular question about locating the closest photo copy machine seemed to indicate that I was going to be WAY too much trouble. Keeping his friendly smile (and neglecting to tell me about any photo copy machine), he pointed down the way and said, “that company can renew your policy”.
So I quickly summarized for myself the lessons I was learning:
- Come early, but not TOO early. Check.
- Get photocopies, but don’t ASK about photocopies. Check.
- Wear good walking shoes. Check
I went in out the door, and turned in the indicated direction and guess what I found? Yes! The company that was currently insuring me! I climbed the stairs, trying not to touch the walls in order to keep my clothes clean, and found a familiar array of desks and, um, sitting devices (can’t honestly call them chairs). I handed them my policy and, can you guess what the guy said first? Yep: “Your policy hasn’t expired yet!” But I was pretty clued in to this little problem by now, and was able to say, “Yeah, we’re coming a bit early this time.” They gave me a form to fill out, and took my Rs. 1200. Since this company did not require any photo copies, I guess they decided I could stay. I was told to come back in a few days to pick up my new policy. Done!
Expat Lessons & Cross Cultural Observations
- My lack of Hindi MUST be factored in. All subtlety goes out the window when we have to use my Hindi, or their English. We’re reduced to pretty basic stuff like pointing out the door!
- Don’t assume they don’t want my business, it might be something else, like….
- The profit margin is so small on my particular policy, it truly ISN’T worth their time.
- They’re just more familiar with renewing policies AFTER they expire, and they’re just not up for the boring job of renewing a current policy.
- They make more money if the policy lapses (they can collect the fine for letting it lapse), so it’s better if I come back in 3 days
- They know that rivalry among the companies can make life uncomfortable; better to send me away than to “steal me” from the competition.
- Or, sorry to say, it could be that their salary is tied NOT to increasing sales or revenue for the company, but tied only to having their body in the office. It’s more relaxing to read a newspaper than to renew a policy that’s still got 2 days of life on it!
- Remember: it’s all clear to the one who’s done it enough. You have to remind yourself that you’re missing cues, you’re not acting “normal”, there are some ‘working assumptions’ that the other 1 billion locals have that you DON’T have, and it makes YOU the more difficult of all customers.
- One last point: last year I did it with Vikas, a local friend. He knew what would be “normal” and what would be “unacceptable”. Since I’m still a relative “new-comer” (perhaps for the rest of my life??), I can expect to mis-read things for awhile longer.
How about you? C’mon, tell me what YOU think! And to my Indian readers, don’t be shy! Put down some thoughts, o.k.? Tell me what you think!
Ron VanPeursem writes about the challenges that expats face when living and working away from home. Ron and Kandy VanPeursem live and work in India where Ron is Director of Asia Operations for Shift Digital Media. He also writes about Content Marketing on his other blog.
A few photos