Cars and Customer Service: Beware the Gecko

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 9.01.05 AMThis winter I drove across country. Speed limits on these super highways are 75 miles per hour. Along the shoulder, highways are littered with shreds of big rig tires, blow-outs collect like giant snails. After I had crossed the border between Arizona and California, I started to relax. After all, I was getting closer to the Bay Area, my final destination. That’s when my car hit one of these huge clumps of big-rig tire. At 75 miles per hour, I felt a jolt and thud.Immediately, I knew something was wrong. The good news is that I made it back to the Bay Area. I reported the damage to my insurance company. It’s one of those companies that advertise on TV and radio and has a gecko for a mascot.

My daughter recommended a local body shop. She’d taken her own car there several times with good results and I trusted her recommendation. I picked up the rental and expected to have my car back in several weeks.

Back and forth the insurance company’s adjustor questioned every fix required by the body shop to get my car into driving shape. The frame was damaged. The adjustor offered that maybe the car’s alignment issues were caused by another accident. They were slow to approve any repair.

About three weeks later, I flew to Portland to visit my son. One morning in my motel room, I received a call from the insurance company. They advised that the car rental had been extended; however, I needed to re-register. I explained that I was in Portland and could not do so. They insisted I must. Really, what did they expect? As soon as I returned to the Bay Area, I pulled into the rental car office. It didn’t seem to bother anyone that I hadn’t shown up several days before. Instead of engaging in an argument, why hadn’t the insurance company advised me to re-register as soon as I returned to the Bay Area? That would’ve been very simple.

Fifty days later, I still didn’t have my car. To add insult to injury, the insurance company refused to extend the car rental beyond the end of the month. They required me to pay for any extra daily charges. Of course, throughout this back-and-forth, I spoke to the body shop. They kept me informed. At one point, David, the proprietor said, “Don’t worry. I will treat your car as if it were my own. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure that everything that needs to be done, is done.”

On the 52nd day, I received a call from the shop. My car was ready for pick up. Finally. I dropped off the rental, and paid for the extra charges. David was at the shop and handed off the car. I was glad to see my Camry. The car drove beautifully.

When I got home, my next step was to sign up with a different insurance company. My current company had done nothing to make my experience as painless as possible. Instead, they had put their dollars into smoke and mirrors, advertisements and catchy phrases. How had their actions in any way affirmed that they appreciated me as a customer, that they appreciated my business? None that I could tell.

Even if this insurance company already had absorbed a number of drop-offs into their bottom line, word gets out. Do you think that when anyone asks me about my experience I will have anything positive to say, and what about the thousands of other consumers whose claims are treated like mine? As far as the body shop goes, any place that says they will treat my property as if it were like their own, understands communication, which is at the heart of customer service. David even thanked me for being patient.

He told me that the shop hadn’t been fully compensated by the insurance company for all the repairs. “But we’ll deal with it on our end,” he said, and handed over the keys.

I invite you to leave comments about any experiences with the Gecko. By the way, if you live in the East Bay and need a great Body Shop, try 101 Auto Body at 1223 San Pablo Avenue, 510 559-8819. Talk to Dave.

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About Lenore Weiss

Lenore's collections include "Tap Dancing on the Silverado Trail" (2011) from Finishing Line Press, “Sh’ma Yis’rael” (2007) from Pudding House Publications, and "Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Island" (West End Press, 2012). Her writing has won recognition from Poets&Writers (finalist in California Voices contest) and as a finalist for Pablo Neruda Prize, Nimrod International Journal. The Society for Technical Communication has recognized her work regarding Technical Literacy in the schools. All material is copyrighted on this site and cannot be used without the author's permission.
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