Background Articles:

  1. http://mattfisher.tumblr.com/post/29432884849/today-in-response-to-my-blog-post-entitled-my
  2. www.cnbc.com/id/48665555/Progressive_Insurance_s_Twitter_PR_Nightmare
  3. http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/14/technology/progressive-tweets see Tweets and Comments
  4. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57494354/internet-outrage-grows-around-progressive-insurance/
  5. http://blog.intrapromote.com/the-progressive-method-how-to-fail-at-social-media-crisis-management/
  6. http://www.progressive.com/understanding-insurance/entries/2012/8/16/update_on_the_kaitl.aspx

Disclaimer – The rest of this content IS MY OPINION. Obviously, as you can see by my Social Graph, I help insurance companies and agencies understand Web sites and Social Tech. That said, Progressive is NOT now nor ever has been a client. Nor do I use them for insurance.

Facebook - Main Progressive page

The issues I see:

Issue #1 – Robotic responses. If your Legal & Compliance department is running your company and its policies, such as your response guidelines, and they are NOT SAVVY, not trained on Social, make a change. It’s URGENT.

Issue #2 – Lying. So Matt Fisher says that Progressive had a lawyer advising the defendant. Progressive says they did not represent the defendant. It seems by reading the articles that the court records seem to show that one of the lawyers for the defendant WAS associated with Progressive. Progressive later says something along the lines that that’s the way the system works in MD. A poor response strategy is one thing. But LYING! How can you possibly think you will get away with lying – even “spinning”, a lesser offense – in the midst of a Social Media crisis?

Might want to take this post down

Issue #3 – Not reacting well. Once the issue blew up on Social, even then, in a full-blown PR crisis, Progressive continues to stumble and fumble. Isn’t it a really good time to get it right? Make a video – TODAY – about how you screwed up, we all make mistakes, we’re going to pay the claim plus an extra 10% because we’re boneheads. And ask your policy holders, those you DIDN’T screw up in similar situations, to Comment. Finish by saying what your going to do to reinvent your policies, communicate them to your clients, and use this as a “life-changing” business event.

Issue #4 – Poorly written insurance policies. Not Social Media policies – the actual insurance policies and provisions, the fine print, etc.. We all know that consumers buy insurance for protection in a time of unforeseen crisis and accidents. THEY TRUST that the insurance company is going to be there for them AT THE TESTING POINT. They also understand that like anything else in business, there is a profit motive. In the case of insurance, one of the primary profit deltas comes from all the policies that never HAVE a claim. So when claims DO happen, the insurance company is supposed to have set aside and invested some amount of premium dollars to pay the claims.

Here’s the new thing: EVERYTHING YOU DO IS NOW PUBLIC. Get used to it. Embrace it. So when an insurance company appears to be withholding money in a time of crisis, we get mad – and WILL GO PUBLIC with it. So look, re-write your policy provisions to give you room to maneuver – and make sure you move in the policy-holder’s best interest, NOT YOURS.

Issue #5 – Executive leadership. This is where I lose sleep at night because I deal with insurance executives day-in-day-out. The higher you go, the more responsibility you have to do things right, to be smart and efficient, to set examples, etc. etc. You also have to have A VOICE – internally and externally. And you need to be exercising that voice on behalf of the brand, building fans and a loyal following, being transparent and HUMBLE, serving in the community with genuine empathy and compassion. Sure no one’s perfect and employees and third-party partners make mistakes. IF NOTHING else, leadership should understand why and how to build things like Klout scores into the CRM system with alerts when someone like Mr. Fisher has an issue AND has a Klout score in the low fifties (now 64, btw)!

Adverse impacts:

#1 – Public reputation, word-of-mouth – Right, wrong, or indifferent, Progressive now has a tarnished reputation among a vast amount of people. Yes, technically speaking, Progressive is ‘right’ in the way it handled the policies – per se. But boy, do they now have reputation issues.

#2 – Switching just out of spite – Here’s the thing: With few exceptions, policy holders can switch their policies from one company to another in a matter of hours – and probably save money and improve coverage in the process. So don’t EVER think that just because you’re sitting on a big block of existing business today, you’re immune tomorrow. You’re NOT.

Google Search Results

#3 – Online reputation – Google Progressive Insurance. Then add ‘sucks’ to the string. Look at the Facebook page and Recent Posts by Others. Look at the Flo page. It’s almost ALL negative expect for the posts from apparent Progressive Agents, who rightly see their livelihood slipping away right before their very eyes.

#4 – Stock price – short term and long term – I don’t even want to go there. Check out the PRG and see what direction it’s going.
https://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NYSE:PGR

#5 – Employee morale – There’s two sides of that coin – what people are saying ‘publicly’ around the offices, and what people are whispering privately. And what are the adverse impacts of negative morale?? More mistakes, turnover, absentee-ism, illness, etc. What’s the financial impact of all that lumped together? Is it more than the stupid original claim in question? Almost certainly.

#6 – Recruiting – Is someone going to throw their hat in the ring for a job with a company with a bad reputation. If I’m an employee, am I going to actively recommend that my friends and acquaintances apply for an open position.

Conclusion:

This is a big deal. If you don’t understand Social – REALLY understand it – you’re not decreasing your risk by staying on the sidelines. YOU ARE INCREASING YOUR RISK. Don’t be a sitting duck. MOVE!

How can I help? Comment and Share. What’s YOUR take on the Progressive issue. Oh and btw, if your insurance company BLOCKS blogs, YouTube, and you Commenting on Social Networks, do you see an issue?