Sixty years ago, my father had an insurance agent named Jack Josephson. Jack was the embodiment of customer service. He answered his own phone, spoke in simple terms, told the truth, and would drop anything he was doing to respond to a client with a claim. Jack was a good guy in an age of good guys – but since good guys were everywhere in the ‘50s, he went pretty much unnoticed. Jack worked for Prudential, the “Rock-of-Gibraltar” company. It seemed to fit. Jack was always there, never changing, solid. He was an honor to the brand he served. I remember the day I learned that Jack had died. And though I never really knew him personally, I felt like I had lost a part of my childhood.
In the 1980s, I met another such man. His name was Jack Wolfe, and he worked for Erie insurance. Even in a decade of fast deals and slick salesmen, this guy was as honest and caring as anyone I had known in my youth. In the 20 years I stayed with Erie Insurance, I had a few claims. And Jack was always there, attentive and patient.
Ten years ago, when I moved out of state, I changed insurance companies. My new sales rep seemed genuinely interested in me, when we met. He sold me car insurance, and life insurance, and home insurance, and business insurance, and we were best buds.
Then one day I tried to file a small claim on my homeowner’s insurance. My agent was busy when I called, so I spoke with his office manager, who assured me we would hear from an adjuster within 24 hours. Several phone calls and three weeks later, we finally did hear from an adjuster, but by that time, we had long since completed the repairs out of our own pocket.
The next winter, a pipe burst in my house. I tried to reach my agent, but he was on another call. Since it was Friday afternoon, I told his assistant I would rather wait than run the risk he might not get my message before the weekend. After 34 minutes, he picked up the call – and chided me for tying up an incoming line.
Sure, times have changed. But customer expectations haven’t. And today’s consumers don’t just walk away, they take their social networks with them. That’s the consequence of poor service in the age of social media.
You see, customer service is the cornerstone of every stage of the customer experience. Always was and always will be. The good sales folk understand that. And the rest? Well, they never knew Jack to begin with.