Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Customer Service Story (Part 3/3)

Previously I posted about my customer service experience with 21st Century Insurance, and I sent an email to their executives demanding some reasoning [click here to read that post]. Then I wrote another post about my search for a new insurance carrier [click here to read that post]. And in Part 3 of this customer service story, I get a response from AIG, 21st's parent company

21st/AIG’s Response
A day before my imposed deadline, I got a call from someone at the executive offices of AIG (most likely not someone important, seeing as how their stock was in a 98% freefall, they surely have more important things to deal with). So he calls to apologize and explains that they’ve reviewed my information and they can reinstate my auto insurance policy. He also informed me that their system shows I had initiated the online payment, but did not complete it… confirming my suspicion that I got distracted (by something shiny most likely).

None the less, he still needed to confirm some information to reinstate my policy. I told him I’ve already started a new policy elsewhere, and I wouldn’t be interested unless they could offer me a better price for this term at least. He said he’d need to enter all my information and whatever the computer spits out is what the policy has to be, which I understand by their underwriting procedures, but really… how could they win me back when they’ve already proven to me that they are not willing to compete on price, they’re customer service is suspect, and their parent company is full of doom and gloom. Besides, their response to keeping me their customer is to make me jump through the same hoops of reapplying for a new policy again.

I still feel wronged by their lack of proactive steps before canceling my policy. His explanation did not make me feel any better and he didn’t offer any incentive to stay with them. This whole situation could have been averted if the first CSR I spoke with had empathized with my payment not being processed (and not setting blame on either party), and then putting me on hold for a minute while she got someone else to bring on the line that could reinstate me, or otherwise make it seem like I was being reinstated even if it was technically going to be a new policy. Here’s how that would go down:

CSR 1: Mr. Huang, I apologize that your payment hasn’t been processed, but give me just a moment while I get someone on the line to reinstate you.
Ray: Sure. [placed on hold for a minute or so]
CSR 1: Thanks for holding Mr. Huang, I’ve got Daniel on the line that will be able to help you out with that.
CSR Daniel: Hi Mr. Huang, so I just need to verify some information.

At this point, he could be signing me up for a new policy, and I wouldn’t know the difference, and then let me know that my rate has been adjusted by a few bucks if it has. That is something that I can tolerate, because I was willing to pay a late fee upfront anyway to be reinstated.

So the lesson to be learned is this – make sure your customer service is always top notch, and that your representatives have the authority to make necessary decisions to remedy situations. As soon as a customer walks out that door or hangs up that phone, the problem should be solved to the best of anyone’s reasonable ability. If you let that customer leave disgruntled, the repercussions could potentially be hugely damaging, especially with online tools available today like blogs, Yelp, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter out there.

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