Holding Customers Hostage Is Just Plain Wrong

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Customer Relationship Management
Customer Experience
A few weeks ago, my daughter was in a minor car accident. Fortunately, she wasn't hurt. She tried navigating a turn on a residential street in snowy conditions and the car skidded into a fire hydrant at a low rate of speed. The police that arrived on the scene had the car towed since it couldn't be driven (the front bumper was dislodged). What has since transpired is a tale of three customer experiences - two positive and one which should serve as a lesson in how not to do business.

A few weeks ago, my daughter was in a minor car accident. Fortunately, she wasn't hurt. She tried navigating a turn on a residential street in snowy conditions and the car skidded into a fire hydrant at a low rate of speed. The police that arrived on the scene had the car towed since it couldn't be driven (the front bumper was dislodged). What has since transpired is a tale of three customer experiences - two positive and one which should serve as a lesson in how not to do business.The town where the accident occurred is about an hour from our home. Since the accident occurred on a weekday afternoon during one of the snowstorms that have pelted the Northeast this winter, we weren't able to get through to the auto body shop where the car had been taken since they'd closed early for the day. That wasn't a problem and quite understandable given the weather conditions.

The problems started the next day once we were able to contact the auto body shop. Our auto insurer, Allstate, has handled the accident and all of the arrangements that had to be made very professionally and they've made a difficult situation more bearable. Allstate planned to send a claims adjuster to the body shop to assess the damage to the vehicle and determine what the cost of the repairs would be.

Once the vehicle was assessed, Allstate contacted us and recommended that we have the car towed (at their cost) to one of their authorized repair shops. They offered us a few options and we picked a shop that's 30 minutes closer to our house. This is where the initial body shop made things difficult. Let's call them Body Shop A.

When we contacted Body Shop A the morning after the accident, we wanted to find out the status of the damage and they told us they'd look into it and call us back. After a full day elapsed, we called again to try to determine the status and no one could give us a straight answer. Fortunately, our insurance coverage permitted us to rent a vehicle until our car was repaired. Nonetheless, it was frustrating that Body Shop A couldn't give us any answers.

By noon the next day, the Allstate claims adjuster had inspected our vehicle and it became clear to Body Shop A that our car was going to be towed to another shop and they were going to lose our business. The manager of Body Shop A called us and informed me that we had to drive an hour to their shop to sign a release form before the car could be towed away. After I complained about this process and offered to sign and fax the document in order to avoid 2 hours of needless driving, the manager tried to sell me on how his repair shop could do a more professional job on the body work than any authorized repair shop Allstate recommended.

Although it took another day or two to wrangle, our Allstate agent was able to step in get Body Shop A to release the car once we signed and faxed over the release forms. By the time the car was actually towed to Body Shop B, it was late Friday afternoon. The accident had occurred on Monday.

Body Shop B was in regular contact with us throughout the repair process and did a wonderful job of fixing our car. And as I'd mentioned before, Allstate was very responsive and helpful throughout this stressful situation. But the whole manner that Body Shop A took in holding our car prisoner while trying to sell us on the merits of their repair capabilities was just plain wrong.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION