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Rating 8 brands' CX response to my car catastrophe

30th Jan 2018
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2017 ended in spectacular fashion for me when my car was incinerated in the Liverpool Echo Arena car fire. Over 1,300 cars were destroyed when a Land Rover caught on fire on the 3rd floor and progressively over the evening the fire worked its way through the building. Thankfully no one was hurt.

I was there with my family, our car was on the 3rd floor. We had expected to attend the Liverpool International Horse Show at the Liverpool Echo Arena to see in the new year, but instead we were on the train home and I was drinking whiskey in bed by 9.30pm. As you can imagine this was an emotionally charged event for my whole family and all involved and whilst we are now over the shock, the resulting aftermath has been nothing but hassle. It is times like this that it’s fascinating to see how different companies step up their customer experience, under extreme, unusual and rare events.

As a result of my experience across multiple companies during January, I have six valuable lessons for brands ….

  1. Step into your customers’ shoes and take ownership – No one really took ownership of my problem to help me navigate through the treacle. Once they had done their bit, I was passed on to start from scratch with new people or companies and to encounter new problems to fix!!
  2. Your customer is not the expert, you are, so help them – Whilst specialist businesses may deal with the same situation day in day out, often for customers it is their first time. Don’t assume they know what they are doing, guide and help them with your expertise.
  3. Language is powerful, choose your words carefully – The individual words or phrases people chose to use during the 4 weeks significantly impacted my stress levels (positively and negatively). It’s amazing what you hang on to when in the moment and how words, that may seem insignificant to the person saying them, can majorly impact your emotional state and stress levels.
  4. Don’t break your promises – On a number of occasions I was promised a call, a date, an action and multiple times across multiple companies they failed to deliver on those promises. It’s better not to promise at all than it is to set my expectations then break them.
  5. Be human not robotic – Some people were very empathetic, interested and cared about my situation, but most people processed me. I trusted and connected to the people from the brands who were “normal” with me and acted as though they genuinely cared. Those who simply processed me often added to my frustrations.
  6. Understand the job to be done from your customer’s perspective – With each brand I had a very clear expectation of the job they needed to complete for me. I would strongly recommend ALA GAP Insurance, I would not use Enterprise Rent a Car again unless I was desperate, which is shocking considering they often feature highly in NPS results.

The detail...

Having been through that fateful night, on New Year’s Day I set about working out what I needed to do. I have rated my experience with each company based on ease of experience, their contribution to my stress levels and whether I would recommend them.

What job do I need doing?

I need my insurance company to help me get back on the road ASAP and just manage the whole situation for me until I am. I expect this to be at minimal cost, as that’s the reason I have insurance in the first place.

What actually happened?

The whole experience was a nightmare. I was passed around 8 different companies and spoke to multiple people, even within the same businesses, with ever increasing stress levels, punctuated by the odd moment of satisfaction.

Aviva

My insurance company and my first port of call on New Year’s Day!

I’ve never done this before and I need you to help me as the experts, reassure me, understanding the situation I’m in and take fast action to get me back on the road.

I rate them 7 out of 10

  • Initial empathy, but unable to do anything as it was a Bank Holiday. I urgently needed a car for work the 2nd but they couldn’t begin the process of organising one until the 2nd so resulted in additional stress.
  • I didn’t know what was going to happen having never been through the process and had to ask what options were available to me. I had two choices. Pay off the finance, but that was dependant on car value, or potentially like for like replacement as the car was under a year old and first registered to me BUT only if the finance company agreed. They didn’t recommend the best option for me and left me to think it through and tell them.
  • I had to ring the finance company to request a settlement figure and mention the like for like, Aviva couldn’t due to Data Protection.
  • I had to work out the questions to ask to find out what to do next.
  • I needed a hire car (part of my policy) had to ask for it at which point I was informed I could only have it for 14 days, which bought me time, but I had no idea how long I was going to be without a car. Ongoing worry. I ended up having to pay £200 to hire a car for 10 further days as they would no longer cover me.
  • I remembered all of the personal possessions that were in my car, contacted them to ask what to do, as it wasn’t discussed in my initial conversations. I’m told to email proof of ownership to them and ideally receipts. I lost over £200 of possessions and was paid £150, as per my policy. That’s fine, but still feel bitter and out of pocket.
  • The person who was my claims handler was part time and didn’t work between Thursday and Sunday. I only found this out when she didn’t reply to an email I sent and had to call to chase.
  • I was handed off to both Enterprise and Santander
  • Aviva called a week after the incident to inform me my No Claims Discount wouldn’t be affected and my Excess would be waived due to it being a rare event. A small but welcome bonus in amongst all the chaos.
  • Once passed to the replacement vehicle company, Aviva had completed their part and I felt like they washed their hands of me.

Enterprise Rent a Car

I need a car and quick as my work is going to suffer!

I rate them 3 out of 10

  • Despite my Aviva referral, by lunch time on the 2nd I’d heard nothing. So called them.
  • They had no cars available until the 3rd !!
  • I was 1 hour from home on the 3rd (at work where I should be) so they tried to see if the Manchester office could help.
  • They said they would, then said they’d sorted it with Northwich again, rang Northwich, no record of the conversation. ARGHHH!
  • Eventually Northwich agreed to get me a car, but even then I had to get back before 6pm when they shut, by train, so had to leave work early.

ALA GAP insurance

I have paid money for nothing as I haven’t used the policy so need a refund

I rate them 10 out of 10

  • Easiest phone call of all. As I didn’t need to use them they simply said they would reset my policy to start the 3 years again on my new car.
  • Once I knew my delivery date I called them and they did it.

Santander Financial Services

I need reassurance that I will be able to replace my car

I rate them 7 out of 10

  • Explained my situation and the car replacement clause in my policy and that I’d like to do that. Was told they usually only do it for cars under 6 months old, not 12 like my insurance stated, but they “did know of situations where it had happened”. More stress.

Replacement Vehicles UK Ltd

I need a new car ASAP as the hire car clock is ticking

I rate them 6 out of 10

  • An initial good conversation descended into miscommunication, poor expectation setting and subsequently lots of chasing on my part. It could have been sorted inside a week if there hadn’t been a break down of communication between dealers and Replacement Vehicles UK Ltd.
  • I was sent a form to approve the car with the £150 excess to pay! I challenged it, they went back to Aviva to get confirmation it had been waived, then simply reissued the form without the excess on it.

EMAC

I need a refund for my car service plan that I hadn’t used (£270)

I rate them 9 out of 10

  • Agreed a refund and I had to email them. Paid inside the timeline of the expectations they set.
  • They then had to get confirmation from the Dealer that no services had been completed
  • Refund received a few weeks later.

DVLA

I need to tell you my car was destroyed and not be liable for anything relating to it any more and get a TAX refund

I rate them 6 out of 10

  • Discovered I had to transfer the ownership to Aviva online, but wasn’t clear how to do this.
  • Had to get back in touch with Aviva to find out the right address to use.
  • Still waiting for the refund.

Oakmere Mazda

I need to know the date my new car will be delivered and ideally before having to pay for further car hire

I rate them 7 out of 10

  • I am proactively called by the garage supplying my car and told they are hoping it’s still on reserve with another garage and will get back to me.
  • I am also told the car is over 100 miles away and all transporter drivers are really busy at the moment so they need to see when they can get it.
  • I receive a call 2 days later to say it’s all sorted for the date I requested.

My emotional journey over the last month follows a very familiar trend. There is a well documented change curve for people who experience forced and unexpected change. You will find it easily and variations on the theme if you google it. I began my evening with optimism, very excited about our family evening and the year ahead. That same evening my emotions dropped through the floor to despair, anger, frustration and confusion. Then frankly I stayed there for 3 weeks trying muddle my way through the quagmire. I understand that it is not a standard or simple scenario, but the specialist companies failed to proactively support me in my time of need and I was generally left to fight my way through it. Nearly 4 weeks later I’m coming up the other side of the change curve, but only because my new car was delivered on the 26th! Hoorah!

Roll on February!

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