Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Customer Service Story (Part 1/3)

Auto insurance companies spend a lot of resources to acquire new customers; but as many professionals will attest, it is far more important to continue to satisfy your existing customers and do what you can to keep them YOUR customers, or they will defect to your competitors. I wanted to share my recent experience with 21st Century Insurance (who recently merged with the troubled insurance giant AIG) as a long time customer of 5+ years, as it relates to their customer service.

I received a renewal notice and bill with all my relevant auto insurance documentation a month before my expiration date. I went online soon after, started the online payment process and somewhere along the line it failed to be processed. In hindsight, I admit it may be an error on my part for not clicking all the way through or something else distracted me – these things happen. None the less, I am left with the impression that I had paid for the policy in full, while the 21st system says I have not.

Now, two weeks after my policy had officially expired and not been renewed, I get a notice in the mail that my policy has been canceled. Not "going to be cancelled" or "you have an outstanding payment due," but a "Cancellation Confirmation Notice." I had not had any letter, email, or phone call since the renewal bill had arrived 6 weeks earlier. But what's done is done, I figure I’d call in and catch up on the payment and get the insurance reinstated, right?

Wrong. I tell the CSR that I'm paying the policy in its entirety, plus whatever late fees. She tells me that she cannot reinstate my policy. However, she told me she would transfer me to another AIG auto insurance company to get a new policy. I get into it a little with the rep, but she still can't reinstate it. I ask to speak with a supervisor or manager about the subject, “Well you can, but he'll tell you the same thing, because the system won't let us reinstate you.” Well it sounds to me like there is something wrong with THE SYSTEM. Would I still like to be transferred to an AIG sales representative? No, I'll take my business elsewhere if I need to jump through these hoops again.

But I suppose I should thank them and the brilliant architects of THE SYSTEM for such blatant disregard for THEIR customers. For years, I had blindly been renewing my policy with them because I usually got good service, though I never filed a claim; so now I've been forced to look elsewhere, and managed to get a policy that was a 35% less expensive for similar coverage. Having slipped through the crack in their system - let me rephrase - Having been forced out of the hole in their system, I may have been spared from any future gaps and lapses in their customer care system, had a real problem arose.

I put this all in an email to their customer care team as well as 21st Insurance’s CEO and Senior VP of Customer Care (took a little digging to find them), and gave them until Wednesday to respond and see what they would do to try and resolve my experience complaint.

A disgruntled customer can be your worst enemy, and how a firm responds is critical in mitigating any further damage. My next post will be what comes of all this… [Read More]

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Well good thing that you might not stay with them, since AIG is close to going under. Glad that you were able to find something better and cheaper.

Nathan