Archives for customer service

Installment InvoiceWhen we introduced our billing system we tried to make things as easy as possible on the customers. One of the ways we did that was to automatically spread any underpayment across all future installments. So, if their payment had been $100/month and they missed a month and had four payments left, the remaining payments would be $125 each instead of $100.

You might or might not be surprised by how many confused calls that created.

We definitely were surprised. We had tried to be nice, but in doing so we had made things too complicated. So we’re returning to simple. As of now, if the insured’s bill is $100 per month and they miss the bill (or under-pay the bill), the full amount they missed will be added to the minimum due on the next installment, exactly the way it works on pretty much every other bill (credit card, utility, etc.).

We’ve also found that a small number of customers cause the majority of late payments, cancellations and reinstatements. To encourage those customers to keep on schedule, we’ve introduced a $9 late fee. It will be applied to any invoice that is not paid by its due date.

Late payments and under-payments cause lots of problems and significant service expense and issues. These changes will minimize the number of customers who receive cancellation notices or otherwise require additional special handling, and should make understanding the billing much easier for both you and your customers.

We know retaining customers and preventing unnecessary additional interactions is important to you. We look forward to these changes helping reach those goals.

Many of us have tried those “30-day-free” trials, only to forget to cancel during the 30 days and end up paying for something we didn’t really want that much.

A free trial offer is a legitimate way to get a much larger percentage of the population to be willing to try a product or service. The big question for businesses, though, is whether to structure how it works in order to “trap” as many as possible, or to treat customers and prospects the way you’d like to be treated.

Citrix does this really well with their GoToMeeting service. It offers a 30-day free trial. The day before the trial ends they send an email that includes a reminder that you’ll start getting billed the next day, an offer to convert to an annual subscription AND information on how to easily cancel the trial – including a link to make it really easy.

Go To Meeting Email

In insurance we can’t offer free trials, but – with things like clear language, readable fonts and timely reminders – we CAN make it clear that every time we get the chance we choose to treat prospects and customers as we would want to be treated.

It’s just plain the right thing to do. At iMGA, we believe strongly that it’s also better business in the long run, and we plan to be here for the long run.

What are some examples you’ve seen of insurance companies and agents really treating clients and prospects with respect (or not)?

Ever since it was first available I’ve had Verizon’s blindingly fast FiOS service at home. I started with the comprehensive bundle (TV/Phone/Internet) and had a great experience. Recently, for a host of reasons, I decided to switch to a separate phone service.

So, a couple months ago, I called Verizon, explained that I was moving my phone service, UPGRADED my TV and Internet service, and let them know my phone number would be moving to another carrier.

For some reason, in spite of my call to them and in spite of my upgrade, they have a process that automatically assumes they should cancel all your service if you move away your phone number. Here’s an excerpt from the email Verizon sent me:

We know how important your Verizon FiOS services are to you. Therefore, we need to be sure that our records correctly reflect the status of your remaining FiOS services following your recent request to change your voice telephone service to another provider.

If you wish to continue your remaining FiOS services (TV or Data), please contact us within the next 10 days at XXX-XXX-XXXX Monday-Friday between 11:00 AM and 9:00 PM ET so that we can update our records.

If you do not wish to retain your remaining Verizon FiOS services, you do not need to take any action. Your service will be suspended after 10 days. Any charges incurred for FiOS service following completion of your order to cancel Verizon voice service will automatically be credited within one to two bill cycles.

We appreciate your business! Your complete satisfaction is our goal.

I take full responsibility at this point for missing that email. I found it when feverishly searching yesterday for some explanation for the outage.

Why would anyone at Verizon think this was a good idea? Why set the default at “we’ll cancel everything even though you didn’t ask for that”? If I wanted to cancel the rest of the services wouldn’t I say so when I received the next bill? If not and I paid Verizon would still have a paying customer!

Even if there’s some reason to make that the default, why not override that default on the phone call when I told you I wanted to not only keep but UPGRADE the other services?

It gets better, though. As soon as they turn off the other services they place the entire account in a special “suspended” mode. Accounts in “suspended mode” can no longer log into the Verizon web site. So, I’m forced to call. I call the main Verizon number (I haven’t found the email with the special number yet) and after numerous prompts to try to get to tech support I get a cryptic message that says that “due to the status of your account Tech Support cannot assist you at this time”. I finally get a human who says she has to transfer me to a special department. Her attempt to transfer me ends in a dial tone.

But wait, there’s more! This experience sends me searching through my email where I find the one above with the special phone number. Yes, I should have seen the email when it first came. Yes, all this would have been avoided if it hadn’t been missed or ignored and I had only called them to tell them I really wanted what I’d just told them I wanted. I  kicked myself and called the number, where a helpful rep told me (at 6pm now) that she had “put in the order” and that service would be restored “within 4 hours”.

By midnight there was still no service. I called Verizon’s Tech Support. They confirmed that the “order” had never been “put in”. They also confirmed that the group that is only open 11-9 EST is the only group that can “put in the order” to allow Verizon’s system to reconnect with my home.

So, after an hour of calls and 20 hours of waiting, I still don’t have service. I am cautiously optimistic that I might in the next 5 hours though.

What Policies/Procedures do you have that cause problems?

It took a host of policies to put me in this 25+ hour ordeal.

  1. The default is set to cancel all services.
  2. The chosen notification method is only one email.
  3. Web site access is prohibited for “suspended” accounts.
  4. Only one “group” can change account status.
  5. The only group that can change status is only accessible by phone AND is only open for limited hours.
  6. No one – including tech support – has any override ability on account status or the necessary “work order” creation.

Do you have policies that cause your customers problems? Have you reconsidered any of them lately? Do you have multiple policies that conflict with each other or work together to make a bad situation even worse? Please add your thoughts in the comments.

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