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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The value of relationship in customer service

076Over the past few months, I've been having a lot of issues with our medical insurance company. Weird claims processing, being charged for things we shouldn't be charged for, bills I don't understand, etc. Today I learned something that completely changed my perspective on things not working as they have been. I realized just how important relationship is.

We've had the same insurance company for 15 years. In addition, we've had the same claims adjuster for that time. Over the years, I've been able to pick up the phone, talk to her, and figure out any questions or problems. It's been a very friendly relationship. As soon as I identify myself, she immediately says, "hello, Danica, how are you?" in a way that has always made me feel like I had an advocate in our insurance company. Rare, I know, but I think it's something I've taken for granted. Or at least it's something I've gotten so used to that I've forgotten just how powerful it is. One quick phone call was all it ever took to get really complicated messes straightened out.

Which is why all of the confusion we've had with our insurance company is puzzling. I couldn't understand why certain mistakes were being made, and why things that were usually taken care of had become such a mess. Today when I called, I finally got a live person. Someone new.  We have a new claims adjuster, and she hasn't known us for 15 years. She doesn't know the ins and outs of our medical billing history, needs, and how our providers work. All she knows is that she has a job to do and that's to push papers and crunch numbers. We're just names on claim forms. Our conversation wasn't filled with pleasantries or the warm familiarity I've come to recognize from our old claims lady.

I talked to our new claims lady and got everything straightened out. Yay! But as I hung up the phone, I felt a little sad at the loss of the old claims lady. Yes, business got done, and everything worked out. Mission accomplished. However, I realized that I'm going to have to make a lot more of these phone calls to straighten things out. There won't be any more friendly sticky notes on claim letters from the lady who knows us, telling me not to worry about something, or telling me what I need to know. Instead, it will be the formal letters with Dear Mr. and Mrs. X that will take phone calls to decipher and add a little more stress to my day.

Unfortunately, I don't know why our old claims lady isn't handling our claims anymore. She was an older woman, so she could have retired. Or she could have moved elsewhere in the company. Or she could have gotten a different job. But I'm going to miss her, and relationship we've built over the years. While she handled our claims, I didn't worry about anything having to do with our insurance. I always knew that she was on top of it. I knew that we would always work it out.

Most of my job is, in a lot of ways, related to customer service. My hope is that the people I've worked with for years know that I'm going to take care of them. That the new people I meet and work with will feel the same way. As people start reading my books, I hope that the relationship I develop with them will be about knowing them as people, and not just names in a database.

How has a good relationship impacted your customer service experience?

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