Not always pleasant for whom the bell tolls

October 30, 2013

Too bad so many calls to our office are prompted by a sore subject

   POSTAGE  by Rob Stamp

I had a laugh the other day when a customer called me by mistake. Did she butt-dial us or just select us in error from her cell phone’s contacts list? I’m not sure how she inadvertently re-dialed our office, but was hardly put out that she had. More than once, she apologized for interrupting our morning.

“No apology necessary. We always enjoy talking with you, Ramona,” I assured her.

“Well, I always like talking with you and Sandy,” she replied. Following a brief pause, we both erupted in laughter at how that could be interpreted.

“What?” I asked.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes talking with their insurance agent. We’re central to one of life’s necessary evils. I get that. And, more times than not, phone calls to our agency usually sprout from something unpleasant. Here are a few examples:

  • A customer has been involved in an accident or needs to file a homeowners claim.
  • A customer opens their mail and is startled to see a bill reflecting a rate increase for the upcoming renewal.
  • A customer makes an inquiry about the additional cost to add Junior to the family auto policy.
  • A customer going through a nasty divorce demands we immediately remove that no-good husband or two-timing wife from their policy.
  • A mid-life crisis prompts a customer to ask what it will cost to insure a motorcycle, a cigarette boat, or a Corvette.
  • An automated call tells us it has important information regarding our credit card accounts.

That last one happens quite often and is usually met with my very own brand of cynicism. Should that one day actually be a live call, or God forbid, really be about one of our credit cards, the person on the other end will find themselves exposed to some rather choice words I like to spice up the conversation with while embellishing my concern over whatever issue was being raised by the phone call in the first place.

Much of what we do here involves a phone conversation or two. We have a steady diet of drivers calling in a change of cars or needing a duplicate ID card because they’ve either misplaced the original or never received it in the first place. We field many calls from banks requesting proof of insurance. When the mortgage re-finance market heats up, so do our phone lines. Occasionally, an underwriter calls expressing concern over a once-profitable risk that has gone south.

I’ve been here more than 20 years and not only do I know who all of our customers are, I have become rather good at identifying their voices. When I was a kid, I loved doing voice impersonations. Still do. Only instead of sounding like Jimmy Stewart or Jimmy Carter, today I find myself repeating a customer’s name in the manner they say it. I find myself doing that whenever retrieving their file from the cabinet. My wife, and any office neighbors walking by, must think I talk to myself an awful lot.

I could go on, but the phone is ringing. It could be really important. Or it could be nothing. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was another automated call trying to track down some cat named Logan Kirby who may or may not have had one of our phone numbers more than eight years ago. I presume it’s a bill collector because nobody would be so persistent if they were trying to find somebody they owed money to. I wish I could help them find him because I’m getting tired telling them he hasn’t had this number in ages and begging them to remove it from their list. One day they just might.

In the meantime, the phone’s still ringing. I better answer it.