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Good Customer Service: what I expect, and how I define ‘good.’

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I used to have a fabulous beloved insurance agent named Ray Mungia. In a world where customers are merely a number, Ray made me feel like I was his only client. When I had a blow out and my car went into a ditch, he found me money on my policy that I didn’t even know I deserved, and fought the good fight for me and won.

When he left to go into corporate sales, he left behind a mystery person as an agent. First there was one woman, then mysteriously another. No idea what happened or why. I just know that one person told me she had no idea who I was and that I had been switched by Allstate. What???  Then, I waited for this new woman to call me and introduce herself – for a year. I’m such a cranky person (but this is Cranky Tuesday when I get to be cranky, right?) that when all of the dozens of Allstate letters came through, I threw them away and began seeking another agent. At that point, it had become merely a price decision.

I missed some important stuff when I threw away the notices. Oops. My bad. But I had no relationship with Allstate at this point. Certainly none with the mystery agent. Am I the only one who wants a relationship with a person rather than a company? In a world where insurance sucks the life outta us, shouldn’t we at least have someone to talk with that we know?

Finally, I got a call from this new person’s assistant, asking me bunches of questions that I didn’t feel like answering (Do I carry insurance on my X – and why not? It was rife with the overtones of being data collection for an upsell sales call.). I told the assistant that I wanted to speak with her boss, and didn’t want to answer the questions. We agreed on a 3:00 call the next day.

Did she call? Nope. So on the following day, I called her.

“I waited for you to call yesterday,” I said.

“I was busy at that time.”

“Ah,” I said. “And of course you don’t have email and couldn’t have told me, or had your assistant call me.”


She proceeded to make excuses that were doing nothing but annoying me, given I was already annoyed, and that this woman never took the time to find out who I am – and she insures 2 houses, all contents, and my car, so I give her a monthly chunk of change. When I told her about my annoyance, she said,

“Didn’t you get the intro letter I sent you?”

“I have no idea. I probably threw it away. Why didn’t you pick up the phone and introduce yourself?”

It never occurred to her.

Of course, we figured out a way forward, but I have no allegiance to her. If I find a cheaper policy, I’ll change with no looking back. With Ray, I had no idea what I was covered for – he took care of it and I trusted him.

The reality is, the only difference between one insurance vendor and another (given the sameness of the coverage) is my relationship with them, and with no relationship, I sort for price. With Ray, I didn’t care about price cuz I was getting my needs met and ‘sorting’ for a different criteria.

Relationship isn’t the main choice factor when I choose a vendor (I have so many other criteria to meet); but once I have decided to manage a need, and understand my criteria for choice, it’s the difference that makes the difference.

In my company in the UK, I used to make ‘Hello’ calls once a month. Never, ever, talked business – just birthdays, holidays, flus, etc. If they wanted to talk business, I’d call them back. When was the last time you called your clients to say ‘Hi?’ After all, each client defines ‘good’ in their own way, and being a ‘good’ vendor depends on how they see you, not on what you think you’re doing.


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