The Death of Customer Service

Down here in the south, having an insurance agent used to mean something. Your agent used to be your neighbor or someone you went to church with or the spouse of the local elementary school teacher that all your children had in first grade.

Now your insurance agent is more likely to be a faceless stranger – someone you wouldn’t even recognize if they showed up on your front doorstep.

My husband and I have been with the same insurance company for over thirty-one years – THIRTY-ONE YEARS – but we have NOT always had the same agent … all because they keep transferring us to yet another faceless stranger without any kind of notice whatsoever!

Our first agent started working with a different company so our policies were just transferred to someone else within the agency. And then that agent ended up moving away so we got transferred again. And then that agent ended up retiring so we got transferred again.

And the only way we ever even knew we supposedly  had a new agent was when we would suddenly start getting bills and documents from someone we had never even heard of.

No “by the way” notifications. No “thank you” for being a valued customer all these years. Nothing.

And to make matters even worse, this past Friday when I tried to contact my newest agent, I couldn’t even get anyone on the phone. I called my new agent’s number but the automated system said they were “unable to take the call” and I was advised to either leave a message or press 2 for customer service. Pressing 2 automatically transferred me to the main, nationwide, toll-free number for the insurance company – which it turned out, had automated options for filing a claim or paying your bill BUT when requesting customer service, the automated system merely transferred me back to my local agent’s number who was “unable to take the call.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I kept pressing 2 and requesting customer service for at least five minutes – hopelessly locked into an endless loop of customer NON-service.

Eventually I just gave up. Eventually I just hung up.

Now I realize that on a planet of almost 8 billion people that I am just a number. A nobody. A faceless, nameless customer. But after thirty one years of being a customer of the “good hands” insurance company, this nobody is now taking her business elsewhere.

“It takes months (sometimes even years) to find a customer … and only seconds to lose one.”

— Vince Lombardi

First Taste of Freedom

My brother, sister and I were standing at the edge of the garage. We were waiting for our mom and dad to come back home. Eventually our parents pulled up in our old, blue Oldsmobile. The year was 1972 … and my mother had just gotten her driver’s license.

I remember thinking, “Yay! Mommy can drive now!” I was just a kid but I distinctly remember being excited for her. You see, her own mother – my maternal grandmother – had never even learned how to drive. Why, you might ask? Because when my grandmother was young, driving was considered the man’s job; the idea of a woman driving herself around was laughable. At least to the men it was.

But times were changing … and so was my mother. So there she was – in her thirties – finally getting her driver’s license for the very first time.

My father was leaving soon for a two week mission trip so my mother getting her license was actually kind of a necessity. I don’t know if my father would have “allowed” it otherwise. I would like to think he would have … maybe in another twenty years or so.

It’s so strange to think about now; I take driving for granted. It seems like a no-brainer; you turn sixteen and you get your license: male or female.

But even today, I have an uncle who likes to poke fun at my husband for “allowing” himself to be driven around by me. My uncle has even joked with my husband over whether or not he can even drive because so often my husband is seen RIDING with me.

In our house, it’s very simple. If my husband and I are going somewhere in my car, then I’M DRIVING. If we’re going somewhere in his truck, then HE DRIVES. I don’t understand why the older, southern folk find that so difficult to grasp.

But anyway, that old Oldsmobile will always be iconic in my mind. That was the car in which my mother got her first taste of freedom.

Drive Momma drive.

It’s ironic because my mother is indeed the one who does all the driving now. And my father has resigned himself … to the passenger’s seat.

“Never underestimate the mind-altering power of driving alone down a long, windy road — with the windows down and the music up.”