One of the most common gripes I, and probably many of you, hear is the pathetic state of customer service. For many folks, “customer service” has already graduated to an oxymoron. The “Hello, my name is Peggy” commercials are an acknowledgement that customer service has a generic reputation similar to that of used car salesmen.
But I come to praise customer service, not to bury it, because I recently had an experience that could have, and I feared would, become another customer service horror story. Surprisingly, instead of a Halloween “trick” I received a “treat.”
And because if I had received that ‘trick” I would be telling the world through this blog, it is especially appropriate that I now tell the world about the “treat.” Because “yes, readers, there is customer service.”
You may not recognize the name “Mondial” and neither did I until a few months ago. But if you have a VISA card which provides secondary insurance coverage on rental cars then you are potentially a Mondial customer because they are VISA’s provider of that insurance.
Potential became reality for me in July when I was involved in my first accident while my vehicle was moving. (I’ve been backed into twice, from a distance exceeding 20 feet, at gas stations while my car was stopped.) I was in a rental car and tapped an SUV in my blind spot as I moved into a turn lane at about 25 mph. Both vehicles had minor scuffing to their plastic bumpers and my car also suffered a barely noticeable dent about two inches long. (The impact was so minimal I thought my rear left tire had driven over the median.)
The bad news about plastic bumpers is that they can’t be repaired they way you can “pop out” a small dent to metal. The whole bumper has to be replaced. So the rental company sent me a bill for almost $1,100. That included about $200 for some…interesting… charges such as “loss of use” and “administrative charge.”
After my insurance company paid about $500, I filed a claim with Mondial for the balance since I had charged the rental to my Southwest VISA. Because I’d never heard of Mondial, I checked out their website to learn more about them. I was impressed to read that Mondial had won an award for “outstanding customer service.”
I believe that customer service is a critical issue for any business which has competition (and some do not). I deal with businesses I know provide good customer service and I avoid those I know lack it. For example, I fly only Southwest if they have service to my destination because their service has always been excellent. Similarly, I do not shop at Wal-Mart, whose employees I suspect do not know how to spell customer service, much less provide it.
After filing my claim with Mondial, I received an e-mail that one of the documents I had submitted was not adequate. I’d been asked for a “declarations page” which identified my deductible. But I could not find anything from my insurer that said “declarations page” so I had submitted a “binder” which came with my premium notice.
I asked my State Farm insurance agent about a “declarations page” and he said he had no such document. After explaining about the Mondial claim, he said he though he knew what they were looking for. He printed out a document, circled my deductible and signed it.
I forwarded that to Mondial, along with a copy of my insurance card. They had not asked for that, but it occurred to me that the State Farm document was something I could have printed out and signed. I figured the card documented I had insurance, an issue I found…interesting…because if I did not have insurance Mondial would pay the entire amount.
After not hearing anything for a week, I presumed everything was good but decided to verify that. (Unlike other call centers, I never experienced long waits to get through to one of their reps and their call center is in the U.S.) The rep (who was not the adjuster) advised that her online records indicated that a letter had been sent to me five days ago asking for more information. I had not received that letter (and I have never received it.)
I found this…disturbing….for two reasons. First, e-mail had been the communication method up to now so why the change? Also, the rep advised that a document submitted weeks ago and not questioned was now being questioned. Additionally, the adjuster wanted documentation about my wife’s insurance even though she was not driving and it was my insurance that State Farm paid on.
It seemed to me the situation was descending into a “more information” mode that would not end. (And the rental company was threatening to put me into a “collection” mode. ) I know that in any work unit, especially large ones, there is always an obsessive-compulsive segment. There’s one in my own work group that drives my boss insane.
In these situations, we should heed the sage advice of Deputy Fife: “Nip it…nip it in the bud!” It was nipping time…
So I decided to appeal to the claims supervisor and left a message for him on a Saturday morning. Since it was a weekend, I didn’t expect a response until Monday. To my surprise, I heard from the supervisor that afternoon. After reviewing my claim and the documents previously submitted, he was approving the claim for the full amount and would provide the paperwork to the rental company Monday morning.
Tuesday, I confirmed with the rental company that everything had been received and completed for them to be paid. The Mondial claims supervisor continued to update me by e-email about the progress of the payment. As they say in Manila…”wow na wow”!
I wrote a letter to Mondial’s chief operating officer about my experience. Too often, folks let top management know only when things go wrong but management also needs to know when things go right. Given it’s expressed focus on customer service, I expect that Mondial will recognize his effort.
Customer service may be on its deathbed, but firms like Mondial can still win one for the Gipper…