Southern Cross Travel Insurance shares how it adapted to COVID disruption

Firm was seeing heightened concern from customers even before the first lockdown

Southern Cross Travel Insurance shares how it adapted to COVID disruption


By Gabriel Olano

Southern Cross Travel Insurance has revealed how it dealt with the massive interruptions in travel and business caused by the global spread of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

The insurer recently won an international travel and health insurance award for its “focus on quality product and policies, a commitment to diversity and inclusion and for an impressive response to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to Southern Cross, it started to feel the impact in late January 2020, when contact from customers in transit accelerated as nervousness and uncertainty relating to the pandemic grew. The contact centre extended its hours to accommodate the influx of calls.

In April 2020, the volume of customers contacting Southern Cross was more than three times than what it usually received in previous years. To ensure the customers received the adequate support from the insurer, it rolled out the following initiatives:

  • Between April and July 2020, Southern Cross contacted and offered a refund to all holders of its TravelCare single-trip policies. Southern Cross said it was the first travel insurer in New Zealand to do so, returning millions of dollars to its customers.
  • Southern Cross offered annual travel insurance customers an extension to their policies.
  • Due to the exceptional nature of lockdown and travel restrictions, Southern Cross waived its usual cancellation fee of $35 per policy.
  • In July 2020, Southern Cross launched a new website, which had increased self-service capabilities (log-in, claims enhancements) and a new design that helped customers find the information they needed.
  • In December 2020, the insurer launched its domestic travel insurance policy to support the rise in domestic tourism, with the policy document winning an award for its plain English wording.
  • In May 2021, Southern Cross began offering a level of COVID-19 cover on its domestic and international policies.

“What the business confirmed during this experience is that responding to the immediate needs of our customers and acting with integrity and transparency at all times is critical to maintaining customer loyalty,” said Jo McCauley (pictured above), Southern Cross Travel Insurance CEO. “Despite the longer than usual waiting times our customers experienced during the height of the pandemic, they were largely accepting of these challenges and appreciative of the business’ support.”

With international travel now returning to normal, Southern Cross Travel Insurance said it is encountering some challenges as it seeks to meet New Zealanders’ enthusiasm to get out and see the world again.

“Like many other organisations in the travel industry, we’re continuing to experience pressure on our team, who are doing their level best to respond to the customer demand in a timely way,” McCauley said. Nevertheless, we are sparing no effort to be there for our customers, as we always do.”

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