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Customer complaints bring the economic global crisis home

FRANK Tang, a 27-year-old insurance salesman with a major domestic insurance company, has been receiving a lot of complaints since the end of last year, when the global economic downturn suddenly hit.

Two years ago, Tang's company launched a popular project that users could automatically pay their monthly insurance through an assigned credit card. Tang and his colleagues called customers to ask for permission to deduct the insurance payments and more than half from his calling list agreed to the convenience.

According to Tang, the project was launched during a period when many people were making money in the booming stock market.

"So they didn't really care about the monthly payment of less than 70 yuan (US$10), especially when it's relevant to the health and security for themselves and their families. Many didn't even want to listen to the details of the insurance, but I explained specifically as was required," says Tang.

Many people don't check their credit card accounts carefully and regularly, especially when they don't lack money. But the financial crisis has pushed some of them to review their bills carefully, hoping to find some mistakes.

"I have been receiving a lot of complaints from the credit card company and the customers about the project. Many of them suddenly checked their monthly bill and were surprised and confused by this item," says Tang.

Many of Tang's customers say they are unaware of the cost or the specifics of the program although phone recordings reveal that they agreed and also signed a printed contract.

"Many of their complaints are quite similar. They'll say they didn't really pay attention at the time because they didn't lack money and it was not expensive," says Tang.

Some customers screamed to him, saying that "who cares about insurance now that all of my money is stuck in the stock market."

Tang and his colleagues have also received calls from customers enrolled in other insurance programs. Many just started looking at their contracts, trying to review whether they could quit the program without losing too much interest.

Tang has also found it difficult to sell to new customers now, for similar reasons. With five years of experience selling insurance contracts, Tang used to make more than 10,000 yuan every month before the crisis, thanks to the commission from each contract.

But since last October, he has found his income dropping dramatically, especially at the beginning.

"Although AIG's brankrupcy didn't affect China's market as heavily as some Western countries, it still hurt customers' confidence in insurance as a rather stable investment. I got many responses from new customers asking how they could trust me and my company, especially when even AIG went bankrupt," recalls Tang.

He hit his personal lowest sales record in October and November, with monthly earnings both slipping under 4,000 yuan.

Although he has been trying new methods and networks, Tang is not too positive about his income for the rest of the year.

"I guess I won't go back to my normal income level until next year," he concludes.


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