Good Managers Know How to Make it Right
It was a miserable evening – raining and dark, now that fall had arrived. Sue made her way across the large Costco parking lot carefully, pushing the big shopping cart and keeping our two oldest grand-daughters close to her.Arriving at her car she quickly put the girls inside, and then proceeded to load the trunk. The car was not running since the keys were in her coat pocket. As she lifted the last item, a large floor mat, into the trunk the cart began to roll slowly away, heading towards a Toyota van parked four feet away. With her hands full, Sue could only watch the cart bump into the van’s rear door behind the driver’s side.In a flash the driver was out of his van, irate and making a fuss over his rear door. No visible damage was apparent, but Sue took photos nevertheless. The driver demanded that they exchange insurance information. Sue obliged. As they parted ways, the driver promised to call Sue the next day once he had inspected his van’s door in the daylight and if there were any damage.
Two weeks passed, and then the phone call came. But it wasn’t from the driver of the van but from our insurance company of 16 years, Meloche Monnex of TD Insurance, part of one of Canada’s largest banks. The insurance rep, Wayne, stated that Sue had had a claim filed against her on our automobile policy. This is when the frustrating nightmare began with a bureaucratic organization, one that had represented our home and auto insurance needs for 16 years.
The summation of the incident was that Sue was 100% at fault, even though her car had nothing to do with the accident. Her attempts to have the issue escalated to either Wayne’s manager or to TD’s ombudsman were met with the statement that he decided what was taken to higher levels. And as Wayne put it, he didn’t seem to understand why Sue, with an unblemished driving record for 42 years, was upset. We were getting our “free” accident.
What Wayne didn’t seem to grasp was that with this strike against Sue and our automobile insurance coverage, we were now in the difficult position of changing insurance companies. We sought advice from an established local independent insurance company and to inquire about going with them. The reply was that this accident claim was now hitting us in the pocket book. The insurance rep called in the owner, in the business for over 35 years, who looked at us in disbelief when we told our story. If anything, as he put it, the claim should have been applied against our home insurance. But there was the issue of whether any damage had been done to the van.
The next two weeks were very frustrating as I explored ways to get to senior management. And during that period Sue and I had to rush to her mom’s home, 1,200 km away, when her husband died. It was upon our return home that I sought out a contact in the TD banking group. Finally, I had success when I was given the email address of Wayne’s manager. A detailed accounting was sent via email to Moe, the manager. Within two hours I had an email reply, followed by a phone call from Moe.
Moe understood the errors made by Wayne in dealing with the claim by the other driver and his insurance company. In addition to Moe stating that he would deal with Wayne that afternoon, of particular interest to us was his explanation of the stunt that the other company had pulled. To avoid having their client (the van owner) pay a hypothetical deductible on his comprehensive coverage, the ball had been thrown into our court by the other insurance company to hold Sue 100% at fault. The obscenity of the process was that nothing was ever paid out to the van owner. In other words, there was NO damage to his van.
This is the perversion of Canada’s insurance industry, where policy holders are but pawns.
My point in sharing this story is that there was a key lesson here for Meloche Monnex’s management. Yes, we got the problem addressed to our satisfaction. However, it required sustained effort on our part and some luck when we thought we’d hit a wall. But what about the experiences of other policy holders? Indeed, this was a comment made by Moe when he pondered aloud to us whether this had happened to others who had been served by Wayne.
There were two main parts to the solution and the regaining of our trust with Meloche Monnex. Moe got it right by acting quickly when he was informed of our problem. That’s part A. What he blew was part B, the rebuilding piece. As we concluded our telephone conversation with him, Moe said that as a gesture of addressing our inconvenience and bad experience he would send us a $25 gift card to Tim Horton’s (a national coffee chain). Sue and I broke out laughing at that point, since we detest Tim Horton’s and never frequent the chain’s stores. At a more serious level, this failure to effectively address part B – trust rebuilding – spoke volumes to us. The $25 gift card offer was actually more insulting than being offered nothing. The irony is that Moe never sent the gift card.
If a company doesn’t make it right when a longstanding customer or client has a very negative experience, then it’s only going half way. In our case, we’re now with the local independent insurance company we met with during our frustrating time with Meloche Monnex. When a company abruptly loses clients of 16 years due to the actions of a single employee, it has a lot of soul searching to do to determine and identify how it lost its way in customer service.
The role of the managerial leader is to make it right when things screw up.
Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures. – Tom Peters
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