Aaron Rodgers has better taste in companies to pitch
Recently I had a brutal customer service experience. My family was travelling to our annual vacation spot in The Gulf of Mexico to Florida. Anyhow, heading south from Franklin, Tennessee we had just gotten past Atlanta and wanted to let our kids get a chance to run around after being in the minivan for hours. Headed down the surface road just off Hwy. 75, we were T-boned by a young guy in his 20’s who somehow didn’t see our van. This caused extensive damage to the passenger side front door and some mild damage to the sliding door.
Miraculously the 2 doors were able to open and close and function. Also, grace to God, no one was hurt. We were able to head all the way to Florida and back for the vacation and take the car in to be repaired upon returning to Franklin, TN. Admittedly it could’ve been way worse. As a client of mine once said “You were about as lucky as you were unlucky”.
Since it was the other driver’s fault 100%, his insurance company was on-the-hook for everything. He had State Farm, which has been great to work with. That, to me, is how customer service should be. They let us pick the place to take our minivan out of ten different shops near us. They also replaced all 3 kids car seats and reimbursed us rapidly. They also let us rent a replacement vehicle, at their cost, from the company that inspired this article. I won’t say the company’s name but it starts with ‘H’, ends in ‘Z’ and OJ Simpson used to shill for them.
Calling the main office to set up the rental went swimmingly and was easy. They said they’d even come and pick me up if I told them what time I was dropping off my car, which is where the adventure starts. Still unsure what day the autobody place would take our van, I informed them I’d let them know when they let me know. They said to call the local pickup location directly to set that up and it would make things go smoother and they gave me the number. This call took place on a Wednesday.
Friday, two days later, I was told to bring my van into the autobody place the upcoming Tuesday at 9:30 am or later. My next call was to the local pickup location and the phone rang-and-rang. It must’ve rung about 10 times. Finally, an automated message says they’re unable to answer the phone and call later. Unbelievably I can’t even leave a message for a callback! Me, being persistent, call back two more times and the same crap happens. Being Mr. Nice Guy, I decide, hey, it’s Friday they must be busy and will try again in a few hours. A few hours later the same, maddening cycle repeats itself. Short of driving there (they’re located on a busy road on a notoriously jammed up all the time), I have no way to reach them directly it would seem.
I had an appointment with a client, so I resolved to call tomorrow. I try again Saturday morning and afternoon and it’s the same BS. At this point I’m just annoyed and call the main number where I at least got a human and was able to reserve the car. They say they can do it but it’s better to get the actual location to ensure they get my pickup on their end. I tell them my experience and they say they’ll try and call too. They put me on hold to try and call them themselves, to no avail. It’s the same insanity when they try.
At this point they input my desire to get picked up Tuesday morning from their end and say I should try and touch base with the local pickup location just to be sure. I tell them it’s not my fault I can’t touch base and to have a manager try and get these nimrods to answer their phone. The representative says she will and I leave it at that for the day, other than trying to call my local pickup location 2 more times and getting nowhere.
Monday comes and I have way too much going on to stop by personally (which in hindsight I wish I’d done). I do attempt to call several more times and something different does happen finally. Instead of it going to their off-putting message, it forwards me to the main corporate office! I confirm that I’m supposed to be picked up the next day at the autobody shop at 9:30 a.m. and it’s indeed in the reservation. So that gives me optimism (because I want to be that way) that I’m set.
The next morning comes and I get to the autobody place about 9:00 a.m. and just for sport, at this point I call the local pickup location. Again, it immediately forwards to the corporate office and talk to an agent there after being on hold for 15 minutes who tells me it’s showing in their reservation that I’m to be picked up at 9:30 and to be patient until then. I tell them I was just trying to talk to the local pickup office and it forwarded to them when I called.
Having planned on reading a book, I proceed to do that while I wait. 9:30 comes-and-goes. 9:45, same, no sign of a pickup. 10, nothing. 10:30 I start calling again as the guys at the autobody shop start asking me if my ride’s coming. It forwards again to the corporate office and after being on hold for 20 minutes I share that no one has come to get me and when I try and call their freaking number it sends me to them. I fancy myself a patient and caring person, but by this time I’m just done.
The rep proceeds to tell me that since this reservation is being paid for by an insurance company, not me, there’s a different department I’m supposed to be dealing with. This is news to me! They then transfer me and the lady listens to my, by now, elaborate story. She’s very disturbed by my tale of woe and tells me she’ll call me back and try to get a manager to get ahold of someone at the local pickup location to come and get me.
At this point it’s almost lunchtime and since there’s one of those fancy gas stations with real food next door I decide to try and at least get some food, as not only is it hot (it’s August in the South), I’m starting to get hangry (hungry-and-angry for the uninformed). While in the store I get some lunch and a drink and have the brainstorm to send a text to the number I’ve been calling and see if that prompts them to answer the phone. So, I shot off the following text: Will you answer your phone please (prayer hands emoji)?
After sending it, I give it a minute and call. A man’s voice answers. I’m almost too stunned to talk. It’s hard to believe that actually worked! I stammer out that I have a reservation and was supposed to be picked up at 9:30 (nearly 2 hours ago) and had no luck getting ahold of him. He weakly says it’s been very busy and at this point I don’t want him to hang up, I just need someone to come and get me from the autobody store. He says that he knows where that is and will have the driver come straight away. Hallelujah! I’m not going to have to call Uber after all and storm in there in a very ‘Un-Nice Guy’ way!
The driver shows up about 20 minutes later and is about as nice a guy as you’d hope for. He’s a senior working this job for some extra money and something to do with his days named Roger. Quickly it’s apparent Roger isn’t in charge of answering the phones over there. He’s a solution in a sea of problems. On our ride to get my rental we talk and I give him a Cliff’s Notes version of the blow-by-blow you may have just read through. He naturally feels sorry for me and is apologetic. I strive to be fair-minded and not be upset at the people who are doing their job well so I just tell him that he’s great and they need more like him. The weirdest, most maddening thing, of the whole ordeal was there was no way for me to leave a message for a callback.
He tells me that he’s not allowed to answer the phone but he hears it ringing all the time when they’re busy and it drives him crazy. We talk and I share what I do and give him my card (because you never know) and tell him how glad I am that he at least was a pleasant part of this entire experience.
The point of telling you all that, I suppose, is so it’s apparent how many times I tried to meet this company half-way. Breaking it down, the corporate office and driver and original reservation-taking team were actually good. But, as the saying goes, you can only be as strong as your weakest link. It wasn’t until my text inexplicably got the local pickup location to answer their phone that I was able to get the problem solved. It’s bananas that there wasn’t a reasonable workaround for one bottleneck (the local pickup location). On the other hand, you had the tremendous experience we enjoyed with State Farm, which was first class all the way. It was 2 completely different ways to handle folks like me and my family, with problems.
What this entire experience did was allow me to reflect on my own standards of service. I’ve been at this for going on eleven years and have to help people with issues when they arise with various insurance companies. Every company out there has issues, believe it or not. I’m like the triage for such problems and why having an agent is helpful (or ought to be). There are things I’ve learned in my experience that my clients wouldn’t have a chance to know. I can save them untold amounts of frustration and wasted time by being their advocate and knowing where to go to fix things. And if I don’t know, I find out. That’s what the commission I earn is for.
Even though I have many clients, every individual one is important. The key to the many is the one. What that means to me is I treat everyone with care and will go to the mat with a company if need be to help any one of them. If I had the opposite attitude, that ‘what difference does one dissatisfied customer make?’ I see in so many companies, it would make me a thief in a sense. The money I get from the companies in commissions to help them would be more-or-less stolen. Furthermore, I take pride in calling my clients back within 24 hours or less, and solving problems or giving them good advice. I’m a huge believer in ‘The Golden Rule’ too.
“I called Randy when he was on vacation and he helped me figure out why my doctor charged my co-pay wrong” – Kathy Haney in Fairview, TN
Okay, okay you caught me bragging on myself a little bit. But that’s what a good agent is supposed to do. I strive to serve everybody like I helped Kathy Haney. Kinda like State Farm was when dealing with them.
Conversely, if the car rental place would’ve just answered my call once when I was trying to arrange a pickup this entire article wouldn’t exist. I’ve realized in 11 years that doing things as they come up, quickly and with a ‘nice’ attitude that even when things go wrong (face it no one’s perfect) the problems are generally way easier to deal with. By being like an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand and hoping it works itself out, you only invite reasonable people to act unreasonably when things go awry. Now, if we could only get government agencies like Medicare itself to read this…😊