A couple of months ago, an insurance
company suddenly stopped automatically deducting money from my checking
account. I called immediately to find out what was up.
They informed me that I had overpaid
during the prior year, that I would pay no premium in January or February,
would pay only $40 in March, and start paying at a new lower rate of $180
per month (26% lower) starting in April to adjust for my over payment the
prior year. I thought this was terrific; I was really happy to hear this,
particularly coming from an insurance company.
In late March, I went to my on-line
banking system to confirm the $40 had been deducted from my account as I
expected. You can imagine my horror when I learned that $440, not $40, had
been taken from my account.
When I called to find out what was
going on, I was informed that “the company had made a mistake, that my
premium was going up, and that the new rate was actually higher than the old
rate.” Wow! I was, in a word, furious.
I told the agent that I had never been
notified. She looked at my record and confirmed that I, indeed, had never
been notified. When I asked why, she said, “I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
I asked if I cancelled the policy on
the spot if they would refund my money immediately. The answer: “Refunds
take 30 days.”
“So, let’s see if I got this right,” I
said to the agent:
You can make a rate change without notifying me at all
You can take money out of my bank account in an instant
If I don’t like the way you conduct your business, it takes me 30 days
to get a refund?
She confirmed again, that “I was right”
and “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry doesn’t show any sense of responsibility or
accountability—used in this context it simply means “whoopsi!” I didn’t
escalate this issue—I just didn’t have the time that week.
Earlier this week, I tried to make a
lease payment to a well-known, Fortune 50 company. On Monday, I tried to
make the payment and the system wouldn’t accept it--the same was true on
Tuesday and Wednesday. So, I called the company to make my payment as their
system was still down.
Let’s just say it was an incredibly
frustrating experience. At one point, the agent “graciously” offered to
waive a $14 fee to accept my payment in person. I laughed out loud. How
preposterous to even mention such a thing after the manner in which I’d
already been inconvenienced. There were many other things that went wrong
with this transaction that I’m not going to discuss now.
I escalated the matter within the
company. I wrote probably 500 words detailing everything that had happened
during my attempt to make my normal payment. A 2-3 minute monthly
occurrence took me over 30 minutes.
An individual from the company did
contact me to apologize for what happened, gave me her contact information,
and suggested that if I had problems in the future, I should contact her for
assistance. Here was my response:
appreciate the apology, I'd really like to hear that someone is going to
carefully scrutinize and understand all the information that I have provided
so I can be assured that corrective actions will be taken.
is getting much better at apologizing. As the Dalai Lama says, "When you
lose, don't lose the lesson." There are a lot of lessons to be learned in
the email forwarded to you. Those lessons are only valuable if they help
you provide a better customer experience.
Your customers want and expect a lot more from you than what was evidenced
in this specific transaction. This is true for all customer touch points
within your company.
know that my feedback is going to make a profound difference in the customer
experience your company offers me than to know you are the "go to" person
the next time I experience any difficulties. I want as seamless an
experience as is possible.
“I’m sorry” sounds so hollow, so
ubiquitous, and so incredibly easy to say that I am growing weary of hearing
it. Companies need to put some action behind their business execution
If your process breaks down and a
customer has an experience that is less than what they deserve, tell us what
you are going to do to make sure no other customer is inconvenienced in the
same way. Let dissatisfied customers know that you are going to do something
to create a better experience for them and all others who touch that
That is what we want and what we need
Gardner, has held management and
senior management positions in Product Development,
Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service, and
Product Management. He joined Tandem Computers in 1979 where
he was responsible for Corporate Documentation Standards for
Tandem's highly configurable and expandable computer
systems. In 1983, he designed and implemented a
Configuration Guide for Dialogic Systems instituting a
process that greatly simplified a complex, modular product
such that the field sales organization and international OEM
customers could easily define their order requirements. This
methodology satisfied the product definition needs of sales,
marketing, engineering, manufacturing, customer service and
finance. David founded his consulting practice in 1991. He
is a graduate of San Jose State University (BA) and Santa
Clara University (MBA). David is a member of the Society for
the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) and has been Board
Approved in the Area of Configurable Product & Services
Strategy and Implementation. In 2010, he was inducted in the
Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. Out of
over 1,000 consultants who have completed Alan Weiss’s
mentoring program, only 26 have been inducted in the Hall of
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