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A 180-degree View of the Customer

I believe in the agency system because I still like to talk with people who give me their full name and reside in the community where I live. Sure, it’s old fashioned, but when I want to complain about something, like my ever increasing homeowners’ premium, I have a place to vent.

For all the spouting we hear from carriers and agent about a 360-degree view of the customer, a call I made last week to my agent gave me a tremendous example of what I would call a 180 degree view.

I called for an explanation of why my premium keeps rising even while the value of my house, at least according to the Dearborn County, Indiana auditor, keeps dropping. The agent promised to get back to me. I’m pretty sure I left my telephone number, but even if I hadn’t, I’ve been a customer of the same carrier and agency (although under a different owner) since my wife and I bought our house in 1987.

Four business days later, I had not received a call-back, so I made a second call. I got the agent on the line and she informed me that she had called me back and gave me the number she said was associated with my policy.

As she read off the numbers, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The digits she recited was the phone number of the house my wife and I lived in before we bought our current home. We abandoned that phone number when we moved into our current home 27 years ago.

The agent didn’t seem to comprehend the craziness I was hearing. She said if that was no longer my phone number she would be happy to enter a new number in her files.

Finally, I stopped her.

“It’s been 27 years since I’ve had that phone number. Twenty-seven years,” I said, repeating myself so she would understand the complete ineptitude of the situation. “I’ve made dozens of phone calls to your agency over the years, I’m listed in the telephone book, and, if you really needed to, it would take about two minutes online to find my correct phone number.”

I wanted to end the conversation right there and I should have because her explanation of my rate increases wasn’t much better than her ability to return my phone call. I’ve been with the same carrier for over 35 years now, so I’m not going to throw away that relationship because one of their agents has an outdated agency management system.

But I plan on dealing directly with the carrier on insurance matters in the future, at least whenever possible, in the hope that they have a more current view of who I am and what type of customer I am. I can’t say I’m overly confident in that approach, but hopefully they can figure out what my phone number is.  

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