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Guest Post : Social Media – Risk or Reward?

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The world of travel is already awash with companies using social media to interact with their customers, promoting themselves as caring, sharing partners to their holiday experience. As such, it seems a logical step for travel insurance companies to follow…

The inevitable ‘but’ is the risk of interacting within a live and often emotional environment when your customer is having a problem, often during the most anticipated (and most expensive in most cases) two weeks of their year. As such, many travel insurance companies have yet to dive into the deep end. In addition, the costs of managing social media effectively, maintaining a regular feed of information and response, are maybe not best suited for a low-priced insurance product.

There is a reluctance to trust insurance companies and our product is not an impulse or aspirational purchase. We should try to come across as transparent as possible and understand that the way we deal with complaints and negative press can promote our business above the grey mist of suspicion. If we are fearful of being held publically to account, maybe now is a good time to ask what we are scared of, to correct it and then be proud enough to openly talk about it to our customers?

Social media should not be the driver to optimise our service and claims management processes – they should already be close already. There may be changes to culture required to move to a real-time environment but nothing that our industry has not managed in the past. However, if we get it right and a sceptical customer gets an experience they don’t expect, social media is the perfect forum for customers to promote us for free and share the good news with thousands of others. As with anything, how you deal with a customer is what defines their impression of your brand and, ultimately, their loyalty.

At Columbus, we have taken the first steps with our own blog, Facebook page and even a Twitter account, using them to share news of events overseas, advice from the FCO and even video destination guides. We believe that we need to experience this aspect of customer communication as early as possible to ensure that, as it inevitably grows in popularity, we will have already learned lessons to minimise any negative impact. It’s early days but we believe social media is a risk that we can develop into a reward.

Writen by Greg Lawson, Head of Retail at Columbus Direct