I got a call from my insurance company last week. I’ve been “in talks” with them for several months, trying to get a window replaced on my 24-year old sports car after a smash-and-grab in Portland. It’s a long story, but in summary the car is just old enough and just unpopular enough to make this particular piece of glass virtually impossible to find. Nobody makes it, nobody has it and nobody wants it… except me. By the time I got this particular call, I’d estimate that I had spent several hours on the phone with different insurance adjusters, sub-contractors and middle-men, trying to locate this piece of glass. All in all, it has been quite frustrating.
This call started off the same as the rest. The lady on the other end used a very “professional” voice, the type of tone that makes it clear: this voice you hear is not mine. I am a mouthpiece for someone else. Someone who doesn’t have a childhood memory or a favorite ice cream flavor. Someone whose full name includes Corporation. She warned me that this call was being recorded (for quality purposes, of course) and asked one or two standard questions about my claim. But then the call took a surprising turn.
“I’m just calling to apologize for your experience with us recently.” I noticed a distinct change in her voice. The robotic tone started to fade, and her words took on a more personal feel. “The last time you talked to an adjuster, he told you that there was nothing more we could do for you. I’m sorry about that.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. This was completely unexpected. She went on to explain what they would be able to do for me. Although I had previously been warned by my agent that the insurance company wasn’t responsible for locating obsolete parts, she assured me that they would continue to work with me to locate a supplier and get the glass installed. She mentioned how frustrating it must be to deal with this unusual situation. She checked to be sure I knew what I could do next, and what my new adjuster would do to help me out.
Before she hung up she apologized one last time. It was a straightforward, no-strings-attached “I’m sorry about all this. I hope we can get it fixed soon.”
What’s the result after all that? I’m still left trying to find a near-mystical piece of glass. The car still sits unused. Nothing about my situation changed, so far as tangible, measurable things go. But I wrote to you about it.
Every human interaction is a relationship, whether it’s a friend, a customer, a date, or a complete stranger. Honesty, trust, and empathy make all the difference.