Would I Lie To You? The importance of trust in business

My good friend Peter Cook (not the dead comedian, the M.D. Human Dynamics / The Academy of Rock – Speaker, Author, Facilitator : Strategy; Innovation; Creativity; Leadership – that one – wrote a blog on LinkedIn recently.  I thought it served many appropriate lessons for organisational life…and ‘honesty’ is one of my deeply held convictions – almost too big a hot button, such that I only give people one chance (which isn’t fair, but life is too short!).  I also love his humourously angry pictures.  Lets hope his ceiling is fixed soon!

read on….

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Peter Cook

Q : Should you lie in order to secure an insurance claim?

I was shocked and surprised to learn that my buildings insurance did not cover the sudden and dramatic collapse of the living room ceiling, having recently reviewed and upgraded the cover to what I believed was a good level. When I called Kwik Fit Insurance (The Agent) and Towergate (The Insurance Company), I was even more surprised when the interview commenced with questions about whether I had a criminal record! Just for the record, I don’t have a criminal record, other than a couple of songs by the Fun Loving Criminals and I don’t think this was behind their question. Neither have I ever made an insurance claim in my life. For many years I also had Professional Liability Insurance with Towergate. In short I thought I was a good customer.

Q : Should you assume that all your customers are criminals?

I’d imagine that asking you if you are a criminal is not the first question you would ask on a hot dinner date, so why commence the dialogue in this way? I had really expected something more like “Was anyone injured?” before moving on to ask “if I had taken the ceiling down myself so that I could sell it down the market” and so on. I’m afraid this got things off to a bad start which then got worse in subsequent communications:

“Well darling, before we begin, do you have any convictions?”

Towergate’s Debt Ceiling is approaching £1 bn – is it any wonder that they don’t want to honour claims?

The ceiling fell down with just a few minutes notice and we narrowly missed being under it. As soon as my wife spotted a crack in the cornice one evening, we removed all the items from the room and put sheets down to protect the carpets, but 5 minutes later there was an almighty crash. To my surprise from conversations with the insurers, it seems that this was the wrong thing to do. Apparently we should have left all the furnishings and valuables under the ceiling and claimed for the lot. Moreover, it seems that I was supposed to invent a tragic accident, where water had been spilled upstairs or some other single event that “caused” the collapse. Because I told them that the ceiling fell down due to “gravity” they told me that they considered this “wear and tear”. It seems that I would have been better to suggest that Lionel Ritchie had come round and caused the fall due to his insistence on “Dancing on the Ceiling” all night long …

Q : Hello, is it me you’re looking for? :

Don’t have Lionel Ritchie round for tea if you value your ceilings…

I remain indignant with Towergate insurance and Kwik Fit over this matter. Since I refused to lie about the claim, do not have a criminal record and attempted to minimise damage to my property to save claiming, it looks as though they will not support my claim.

You may well be thinking “Well surely you should have looked at the terms and conditions” and you are right. Yet, these do not talk about exclusions in older buildings. On further investigation, it seems there are a lot of people being caught out in similar circumstances. 61% of the UK population are unaware that their ceilings are not considered part of their buildings insurance if they fall down with no catastrophic single cause. I would argue that the insurance industry likes it this way as they never have to pay a claim. There is also a missed opportunity to sell additional insurance on older properties where a ceiling collapse is a much more probable event. Most houses built before 1940 are constructed with Lath and Plaster ceilings and are at risk of collapse at some stage as the ceilings dry out with hotter summers and so on.

Q : If the majority of the population believe ceilings are covered by buildings insurance, has the insurance industry failed to communicate this issue?

I doubt I will get any assistance in restoring my ceiling from Towergate insurance or Kwik Fit who handle the policy. I remain resentful that they would have preferred me to lie in order to make a claim. An insurance insider commented to the effect that the industry has good reason to mistrust the public, which seems to confirm that there is a massive communications issue to be managed here:

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