Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Taking Care of Business

Image courtesy of cygnus921
I often write about customer experiences gone wrong - because it's so easy and happens so often - but when things go right, I like to share the stories and give kudos, as well (like I did in a recent post about a furniture shopping experience).

Unfortunately, it doesn't happen very often. We need to fix that, no?

Here's my story.

I was in a little fender bender two weeks ago. I was totally incidental to the main incident, but my car was damaged, nonetheless. (My kids and I were OK.) I'll spare you the details of the accident because it was pretty ridiculous.

I've been a member of AAA for the last 26 years, and they provide my auto insurance. I pay for membership every year, and I rarely, if ever (knock on wood), need their roadside or insurance services. Thank goodness. But I must say that it's nice to know they are there for me when I do need them. Like they were two weeks ago.

The accident happened late on a Saturday night, as my boys and I left an Anaheim Ducks hockey game. The police called an Auto Club towing service, and after waiting more than an hour for the tow truck driver to arrive, he finally showed up. Unfortunately, he didn't have room for the three of us in his cab, so he called for another truck and told us the next driver would arrive in 10 minutes. Ten minutes turned into an hour, and we were exhausted. This is where I'd normally start to write about how bad the experience continued to be, but things took a drastic change for the good here, believe it or not.

The second driver, Tomas, was like an angel sent to help us! He was kind, friendly, and service-oriented. On the drive to my dealership to drop off the car, Tomas spoke about how he didn't care what level of AAA membership I had or anyone had; he treated everyone the same. He believed in providing the best service for his customers (his words); he assured me that he'd drop off the car wherever I needed it dropped and would take us home quickly after that. I sat in the dark in the front seat with a smile on my face. It was a stressful night, and he just made me relax for the first time since the accident.

I've written about the partner experience a few times in the past, but this is a great example of how taking great care when selecting (and keeping) your partners can make all the difference in the customer experience.

Your partners are as much a part of the customer experience as your own own employees are. Choose your partners wisely.

The next morning, Sunday, I called AAA to file my claim. The agent on the phone was so charming and delightful. Her first concern was to make sure the kids and I were OK. She took all of the information about the accident and asked a lot of questions, but she made me feel at ease and assured me that she would take care of everything for me. Ironically, her computer wasn't working (why does that always happen? perhaps for another blog post...), and she ended up taking down all my information on paper. She promised she'd call me once the computer was back up.

She called, but I wasn't available, but to my surprise, she left me a very detailed voicemail with all the information I would need to get through the next 24 hours, including:
  • Name and phone number of the agent taking my case
  • Claim number
  • Rental car information
Yes! She even reserved a car with Enterprise for me. Could it really be that easy?!

On Monday morning, a friend took me to pick up the car, and when I returned home, my assigned agent called me. He confirmed all the details, explained what was going to happen from here on out, and assured me he'd send me a check to cover the towing and a check for a new booster seat (legally, you have to replace a car seat that's been in an accident), both of which made me very happy.

The agent took great care of me. We communicated a few times by email, and his emails were always friendly, professional, and in an "in your service" type of tone. I loved it. An interesting thing that I noted in his emails was his manager's name and phone number. When I called him and got his voicemail, I noticed that his outgoing message stated that if I wanted to provide feedback to his manager or if his service was not to my expectations, I could contact his manager; he provided her name and phone number there, as well.

A short while later, I got a call from the claims adjuster to let me know that he'd be going to see the car. After he was finished reviewing the damage, he called to let me know what the dealership would do and how AAA would take care of things. Two days later, I received a copy of the estimate for the damages, just as we'd discussed on the phone.

Sure enough, they took care of everything. The car was ready in a couple days, the checks arrived a week later, and I was so surprised at how easy and pain-free they made the whole situation.

A few days later, I received a handwritten thank you note from the agent: "Thank you for your continued membership with the Auto Club. It was a pleasure to assist you." Nice touch.

You can only imagine my delight about this entire experience. A couple of takeaways for you:

1. Your partners are a critical touchpoint in your customer journey. Choose them wisely.
2. Especially during stressful times, agents should express empathy and extreme patience. 
3. Take the time to explain a detailed process, if there is one.
4. Be real. Be helpful. Genuinely want to help your customers.
5. Keep your promises.
6. Communicate frequently. 
7. Be responsive.
8. Provide all the details about what the customer can expect.
9. Interact with customers as if you are "in their service." Because you are.
10. Always thank your customers for their business. 
  
Take care of your customers, and they will take care of you. 
 

8 comments:

  1. Wow! It's so great when an organization provides great support through multiple interactions with different people through out. It shows they have a great culture. I'm glad to hear you and your family are ok too. Thanks for a great blog post!

    Jeremy
    @commbetterblog

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jeremy, and thanks for your comment.

      I agree! It's refreshing. AAA SoCal has done something right and has a great culture. It's so rare these days that, throughout the organization, regardless of touchpoint, you get a similar/consistent experience. The theme at AAA was to empathize and be helpful and friendly. It worked for me!

      Annette :-)

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  2. Annette,

    I am amazed you managed to keep your cool after waiting for 2 hours for a driver.

    I am also amazed the driver managed to keep his cool when he picked you up.

    It is great that the service was good after the event, but I can't help but think it could have been so much better (and less stressful for all)if they had got their logistics straight.

    James

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    Replies
    1. I had to for my kids, who clearly lost their cool the second we got hit. My 8 year old was ready to crack some skulls! LOL.

      I agree, the logistics could have been better. And in the survey I completed for AAA SoCal, I let them know that that was definitely the only downer of the AAA experience.

      Annette :-)

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  3. Hi Annette,
    What a great recovery (pardon the pun!). I wrote about this a while ago in: http://www.adrianswinscoe.com/blog/give-your-customer-loyalty-bounce-by-managing-customer-complaints-better/

    It shows that even when things go wrong businesses have a great opportunity to enhance reputation and loyalty.

    Great to hear that you and the kids were all fine.

    Adrian

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Adrian. I'll check out your post, as well. And great point... service recovery is really a second chance to get it right and to enhance both the reputation and loyalty.

      Annette :-)

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    2. Adrian, I am no longer able to comment on the post you shared above, but research that we conducted at J.D. Power and Associates many, many years ago showed that the service recovery paradox is in fact real. I have forgotten what the X (factor) is, but customers who had a problem that was subsequently resolved (well) were more satisfied than those customers who never had a problem at all.

      Thanks again for sharing that link.

      Annette :-)

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  4. Great post. Learn more about your options when it comes to car insurance in North Shore MA, home insurance, business insurance and more. Marchionne is the leading local provider with a number of excellent resources directly on their website.

    ReplyDelete