Sunday, November 12, 2006

Excellent 'Customer Service' - Rarely Encountered; Always Appreciated

Earlier this week, I had an amazing experience. It began when I was rear-ended by a dump truck during the totally dysfunctional afternoon rush hour congestion that plagues Interstate 66 West. The driver was gracious and apologetic, acknowledging responsibility and providing me with the information necessary to contact his insurer and file a claim. Fortunately I was not injured and my car was drivable.

This was an incredibly busy time at the University, so it was Thursday before I called my insurance provider, USAA to file a claim. A claims agent responded to my call with less than two minutes of waiting. During the waiting period, there was no intrusive advertising. The agent gave both her first and last name without my asking. She explained the process. She was cheerful, competent and engaged. The experience was, if anything – uplifting. Soon afterwards, a “senior claims adjustor” called me. He, too, provided his first and last name. He was cheerful, courteous and responsive.

I take time to write about this because the experience was so exceptional. In most organizations with which I deal, both outside American University and even within AU, the experience is quite different. My call begins with a long wait and/or complex menu. I am encouraged to solve my problem by accessing a web site rather than waiting for assistance. The person who anwers responds sullenly and evasively to non-routine questions and refuses to provide his or her last name. Sometimes he or she refers me to another office which, when I contact them is unhelpful or unreachable. Or there may be a promise to research my query further and call back that is never fulfilled.

Among my rogues gallery, of offenders, the absolute worst is Cingular Wireless. I have described the egregiously bad service I have received from that utterly dysfunctional organization (from my vantage point at least )n in previous blogs. Competing for the bottom spot is MetLife, an organization to which my extended care policy was unceremoniously dumped by TIAA/CREF, “a name you can trust” several years ago. Others near the bottom are most ‘help desk’ services that computer support organizations and software organizations provide. My wife did report a recent good experience with a help desk support service that had been outsourced to India.

For most organizations, providing decent telephone support must be at the at the bottom of the priority list. Customers are seem to be viewed as captive audience whose goodwill simply isn’t worth the trouble.

I must take a few moments to write to USAA and tell senior management what a contribution their claims service staff members made to my well-being, last week. Perhaps that will help to ensure that this function remains high on their priority list.


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