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Friday, June 22, 2012

Why Brand Loyalty Doesn't Pay...or Why State Farm Sucks

I have been a loyal State Farm customer since 1995. When we opened our policy with Bruce Clifford, we had two vehicles (maybe three) covered and renters insurance. We were very happy customers and had a great relationship with his office. Over the years, our needs changed and so did our agent. Our policy was purchased by Tom Deladvitch when Mr. Clifford retired. Things were fine, until we actually needed to communicate with his office…until we actually needed our agent.
I received notice in the mail that State Farm had made an unannounced visit to our property and found issues which cause a hazard to the dwelling; therefore, our policy was terminated. Upon receiving the letter, I immediately tried contacting my agent. The first day he was out of the office. He returned my call the next morning and left a message on my home phone while I was at work. When I got home, I returned the call and he was out of the office for the day. He leaves every day at 2pm. I explained to his office staff why I needed to speak to Tom, I referenced the cancellation notice, and I let her know I felt his schedule was not going to give me the opportunity to do so, since I work and am not allowed to have/make personal phone calls. Her response: “The man is busy. What can I tell you.”
That should have been my first warning sign to get away from that office…and I contemplated switching agents, but I am a very loyal customer (17 years with the same insurance, same cable provider, same plumber, same septic service…you get the idea). I decided to work through the issues at hand and see about getting my insurance reinstated. I made arrangements for him to contact me at work (very much against my principles) and lunch breaks (which I desperately need)….because his time is obviously more indispensable than mine. He came to the house and we discussed the key points in the letter and some other issues which needed to be addressed. He let me know when the issues were corrected, I could contact him and he would photograph the issues again and resubmit to underwriting.
So after an extensive amount of work, it was time to have him stop by. I scheduled the appointment for 9:30 am on Wednesday, June 20. He showed up at 9am without contacting me first to see if I would even be home. As it happened, I was just getting out of the shower. He apologized for coming early, but said he had three visits to make and wanted to beat the heat (heat index of over 100). I have no problem, whatsoever, with him coming early, IF HE HAD CALLED. But again, this was another indication that he felt his time/schedule was more important/valuable than mine. Unacceptable.
After the initial congratulations on the work we had accomplished, things turned ugly. He pointed out things that were never listed on the letter, things that he could have, SHOULD HAVE pointed out with his initial visit a month ago. And then he pointed out things that were inconsequential to State Farm; things like a small pile of dirt near the back of the house lying next to a tree in the garden and a stack of mail in a utility room in the garage. If I had mulch to be laid out in my garden, that pile would have been higher than the small lump of dirt he was referencing. And as far as the mail…maybe it wasn’t the most organized stack of mail in recorded history, but everyone has quantities (filing cabinets?) of papers floating around in their house. His issue was mail burns, and it is a risk to State Farm because it is flammable.  And what about books? Books are paper. Paper burns. So I’m not supposed to read books or have a bookshelf, either? I questioned him on the issue and whether or not he has any himself. His response, “they don’t look like that”.  So, this is the real issue. His house is neater than mine. His house is more organized than mine. His house is newer than mine. I’m a slob in a run-down old farm house. THAT’S the issue.
My irritation began to show and he said he could understand what I was feeling. I told him there’s NO way he could understand my feelings. Not unless someone was in his face, telling him he wasn’t good enough, and he could potentially lose everything he worked his entire life for…everything he has given his family. Only then could he understand my frustration. He refuted my statement, saying he’d been in the same position with other customers in the past. Sorry. It just ISN’T the same.
He said he was telling me these things based on his twenty-nine years’ experience as a State Farm agent. If he were to resubmit to underwriting, he knows what his company is looking for. He wasn’t about to send them images and have them come here to see other issues (that were PREVIOUSLY UNADDRESSED) and have HIS REPUTATION on the line. So I told him maybe I needed to look for another company. He proceeded to put his camera in his pocket and was ready (and more than willing) to be finished with me.
He did finish photographing the things he needed to, but only at my request. And while he did, I sat on my pretty, uncluttered porch and cried. And when he left, I made a few phone calls and had a new agent by the end of the day. So long, State Farm. It’s been real. Until I needed you.
(And somewhere in here I should include, in the midst of all this, I added a new driver. The office staff was supposed to mail me a packet for a Steer Clear program which would provide a safety discount for my son. I never received the packet. Until I made a trip in to the office myself for another reason and asked about it. Her response: “oh, I never mailed that to you?” Um, no. No you didn’t. You didn’t do much for me.