Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Tagged customer service

What a novel idea for companies: Apologize when you make a mistake

I don’t care what calculated advice your PR company gives you, this is how you start correcting a mistake if you run a consumer business, or any business for that matter. It’s called a sincere apology and it’s been helping men stay out of the dog house since the dawn of time. Watch as JetBlue CEO David Neeleman publicly apologizes on YouTube to his customers. He takes full responsibility after leaving numerous passengers stranded on a frozen tarmac for 10.5 hours at JFK. Admirable.

Health insurance companies play dumb when they screw up

Lindsey and I had a bit of a run in with our old health insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, this month. Behold their deceptive customer service:

We started this new policy in September of last year. We then set our online bill pay to start sending scheduled payments at the end of each month. Note: we wrongfully and unknowingly assumed payments were due every 30 days, when in fact, our first premium acted as backpay for part of September and Blue Cross — like everyone — requires prepayment of premiums on the first of each month, thus our second payment was technically due in 15 days from our first payment. But that is neither here nor there, because we didn’t find this out until our return from Christmas break, and that’s not the issue I take with the company.

Once home in early January, we received a letter from Blue Cross stating that our policy had been terminated on November 1, 2006 citing “delinquent payments” and/or “failure to pay” as the reason. Oh really??!!! Lindsey quickly logged on to our bank account to see we had been sending payments and caught our fifteen day discrepancy. It appeared the company was “backpaying” for previous months and ultimately decided to terminate our policy because of it. Fair enough, our mistake. A notice would have been nice before cancellation, but it was our responsibility. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that Blue Cross was faithfully cashing our checks without hesitation even after they terminated our policy. They cashed checks in October, November, December, with a new check likely to be cashed at any moment before we stopped payment. “But Blake, didn’t they cancel your policy on November 1?” you ask. Right your are, they did, but I guess they figured we owed them another check.

First Lindsey called to explain the situation. Blue Cross acknowledged the mix-up and said they would reinstate our policy. But after the incompetence, we didn’t want them as a provider anymore. We just wanted our money back. They said they would send us a letter. They then sent a very cryptic “Welcome Back letter” totally disregarding our prior request for a refund. Lindsey called again, and they told her the policy holder would now have to call. That was me.

I called and said they owed us one month’s premium because they cashed a check on December 1 even though they cancelled our coverage on November 1. The lady on the line was obviously perturbed by my probing and first asked, “Didn’t you get a letter?” I replied that I had but it didn’t solve the issue of a refund. She then denied my claim and said everything was correct and that I was mistaken. Having the check sitting in front of me with its number and the date it was cashed by them, I called her on it. She got really quite for a moment. And then playing dumb said, “Oh… now I see it. Sorry. We’ll send you a refund.” Had we not initiated and documented the error, I can only imagine the company would have tried to stiff us as I’m sure they do thousands of other customers when the opportunity arises. And you know the attempt to avoid refunds comes from the top. How couldn’t it? Regardless, we now have a new policy with a new provider. Still, health insurance companies are a scam. Until you get really sick that is. :)