Progressive Insurance Does Not Deserve Your Business

Project 365 #85: 260311 The Best Laid Schemes... © by comedy_nose

I’m fortunate to be connected to hundreds of outstanding public relations and marketing professionals. All of them are fantastic at their job, and I’m a smarter person for just knowing them (that includes the proprietor of this blog, and the many contributors). Given all the good I see the industry accomplishing each day, at least one a month it seems an entity or a person commits such an egregious screw up that I’m left to question the future of public relations. Or at least how these people have a job that pays them more than minimum wage. The subject of today’s post is Progressive Insurance.

I’ll get right to the point. According to this Gawker article, Progressive paid to defend the killer of one of their client’s in court. Read that sentence again. Notice I didn’t say “basically” or “in essence”.  No. This company paid its lawyers to defend a guy who ran a red light and killed Katie Fisher.Comedian (ironic, huh?) Matt Fisher, Katie’s brother, documented the entire situation in this Tumblr post. What happened boiled down to this. The perpetrator was underinsured, but his insurance company paid what was due to Katie’s family under its policy, which was still short. The Progressive policy that Katie had entitled her loved ones to more compensation. Progressive said no. Katie’s parents were forced to sue the other driver, and who showed up to defend him in court? Progressive’s lawyers.

Understandably, Matt Fisher was PISSED. So, he wrote about it on Tumblr yesterday, and what did Progressive do to respond to all the negative attention it got on Twitter? Respond in a human manner? Take responsibility for the TERRIBLE job it did at using human reason rather than a contract to determine what it needed to do? Oh no. Of course not:

They sent out the EXACT SAME message to anyone who responded to their official account about this situation. That entire statement reads as follows:

This is a tragic case, and our sympathies go out to Mr. Fisher and his family for the pain they’ve had to endure. We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations. Again, this is a tragic situation, and we’re sorry for everything Mr. Fisher and his family have gone through.

Beyond the stock response, which is a huge middle finger to anyone upset with Progressive in this situation, this is what happens when the PR department does nothing to stand up to the legal department. I get that each company has legal obligations and contracts, and it must adhere to those. When a person is dead, and the only (for lack of a better word) comfort the surviving family members get is settlement money, I am of the opinion that you have a moral obligation to expedite the process (while doing due diligence) to help ease their pain.

I’m fortunate enough to never have lost someone I’m close to, though that day is coming. I can’t imagine the extra pain the Fisher family was forced to endure in this situation. Truly, every PR failure in this situation can be fixed with one sentence.

Act like human beings.

Read the comments section. They are absolutely making very relevant points. Here are a couple:

  1. With every stock answer tweet Progressive sends out with Flo’s face next to it, they are destroying that lovable character they’ve spent YEARS and (I’m assuming here) millions of dollars to build.
  2. The fact that Progressive extends empathy to the family when the company itself is a big part of the pain of the family.
I don’t fault Progressive for doing their job, but when you go to extreme ends such as this to keep from fulfilling your end of a bargain…I’m not sure the world’s best PR would do much good.

 

 

 

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  • John Trader

    What disturbs me about this Matt is (as you pointed out), the inability of Progressive to handle this in a manner that at least makes an attempt to preserve the integrity of their brand image. I understand that they had their reasons of defending this guy, but why sacrifice the entire brand image over a weak attempt to respond to complaints about their actions? Last time I checked, Progressive spends MILLIONS on the “Flo” campaign on TV, print, sponsorships, etc. Are you telling me that they are willing to flush all that down the toilet, or be too stupid to realize that they can jeopardize the entire branding campaign from the way that they react to this situation? Well, that’s stupid.

    • Yep. And that’s really what it boils down to from a marketing/pr perspective. The legal department is TORCHING the entire company here over (what I’m assuming) a few thousand dollars. Likely tenths of a percent of the company revenue annually. It just makes zero sense.

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  • Josh Berkman

    At the risk of seeming cold, we don’t know all of the facts. Different companies have different protocols in terms of payouts. Do we really know the circumstances of the accident? From the brother’s description it seems cut and dry, but it’s possible that the driver was insured by a smaller company that decided to settle rather than go to court. It doesn’t necessarily mean the driver was negligent. So what could Progressive done?

    First, they could have avoided a twitter pissing match they can’t win. They could have also done a better job explaining why they were defending the driver and been more clear that because one insurance company settles it doesn;t always reflect the true circumstances of a case. There is no way Progressive can come out of this looking good, but maybe if they explained themselves a little bit more, they could have engendered some degree of understanding. But the emotional nature of this makes it awfully tough. Another idea is to put out some sort of primer/infographic/Q&A that demystifies the claims process and why some companies settle and others go to court.