National Insurance – a service without excellence

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Its been a while since I’ve written about ‘customer service’ but today its my topic of choice.

Good customer service from many monopolistic agencies in my country is borderline bad. Our government agencies provide necessary services, and sometimes  government contracted services are given to established organizations. In many countries national health care plans are mandatory. You are charged a heath surcharge and /or National Insurance rate, whether you use the services or not.

For many folks the benefits offered are necessary when they become ill, disabled, injured, and retire. Many die before ever making a claim or receiving an ‘entitled benefit.’ Then there are some who advise, “the money will come whenever they are ready to process. You cannot depend on it. It is at the whims and fancy of the people working there.”

I recall chatting with a retiree who was injured on the job and she advised, “the process is, submit claim, and wait. Anytime before a year is a miracle.” she waited two years before her first payment and another year for the continuation to be processed. At fifty-seven she has a few years to go before retirement  and is happy her husband is gainfully employed. If she were single, she would be on the streets.

There is another example shared by a man who worked for a government agency. He fell from a weakened barrier while walking to his office. He submitted his claim and 2 years later he called to enquire if it was processed, ( he was checking every month during that time). He was advised by the clerk that the money was sent to his bank 2 months previously. He asked for a letter indicating the value and period of payment processed, and never received any information in writing. He is awaiting his continuation to be processed.

As I spoke with the gentleman, a wave of sadness washed over me. He looked dejected, and  had tears in his eyes. He then said, “listen, when you submit a claim you are at the mercy of the people working there. They think its a favor being done when they process a claim. Managers are always changing and as files are added they cover yours, they are quick to advise there are many people in front of you. There is no reason to improve if its bad from the top. I accept that they do not like to serve the people they are paid to serve.”  In 2015 this 49 year old man shared his story with me. I l loaned him my blanket while he waited at the doctor’s office. He deserved some kindness if only for a moment.

Why do they suffer in silence? There are many reasons, the main one being a fear of being victimized. A claim can take as long as the clerks and management determine. Files can go missing, and claims are then lost. The statutory time for appeals can also run out. Appeals are also not suggested if a claim is ongoing, because every possible action to frustrate the customer is exercised. This is an added burden on the unfortunate customer.

Throughout the years I’ve heard many stories, and I have experienced this ‘non-service.’ From my observations I think it is a deep cultural problem facing this society.  Having read several reports submitted to parliament over the years it is clear that the issue of providing a good National Insurance ‘Customer Service’ may be a challenge for many years to come.

One of the things I’ve come to realize is that ‘trumpism is not restricted to the USA’, its right here. If you claim you are doing a great job, then you are because you say so. It does not matter if the facts state otherwise. When himself tells himself he is good, he is in his mind. When himself investigates complaints against himself he will always be right. That is a universal culture of a lack of accountability, because those in power believe the public are not entitled to the service expected.

Defeat is never good to accept. Choose your battles wisely. However when it comes to  public expectation for a decent service, I’d give the NIBTT a 2 out of 10, and that’s on a good day. My best advice to anyone having to submit any claims is to pray. If you have never prayed, now is the time to do so. Pray for patience, pray for a pain-free life, but most of all pray for the people who lead. (Maybe try to record all conversations also.) Theirs is a job limited by attitude, poor work ethic and maybe little hope that they can change a service so bad, they simply go with the flow.

On a positive note, it is good to understand the dynamics of the service presented, so expectations can be adjusted to meet reality. An Advocacy Agency is needed for public support and research to help with ensure real change and improvement is possible. Maybe there is hope after all!