Sometimes customer service sucks, but sometimes you get a person like Tumeka

This is not the normal theological fare for my blog but yesterday I had an experience that rebuked my cynicism about an entity that I tend to loathe more than anything else in our culture: customer service. I’ve gotten the run-around so many different times from someone who said he was named “John” but was clearly from India. I’ve had utterly Kafkaesque experiences where I’ve been told that a product I ordered from somewhere that is sitting in front of me on a table doesn’t exist because it’s not in the database, and things of that nature. Well I got into a minor car wreck last week and I had to deal with the insurance company of the guy who hit me, so I expected more of the same; I didn’t expect Tumeka.

I was the middle car in a three car collision that was actually caused by a BMW that cut off the guy in front of me and forced him to slam on his breaks but got away without a scratch or having to pay for the damage. Since I hit the guy in front of me before the guy behind me hit me, my insurance company, Geico, had to pay for the damage to the front of my car and the guy I hit, while presumably USAA, the insurance of the guy who hit me, would pay for the back.

Geico set up an appointment for my car to be repaired but they hadn’t established liability with USAA, the insurance company of the guy who hit me, which I didn’t know about or realize to be a problem. So when I took my car in, I just assumed the whole thing would get repaired in one visit. They gave me a rental car. I drove away.

The guy from the repair shop called me half an hour later and said they were done. I was surprised until he explained that he had only replaced the license plate holder which was the only damage in the front. I asked about the back damage which was much more substantial. He said oh that’s something you’ll have to work out with USAA, which of course I assumed that Geico had already done. Then he let me know that Geico had only reserved my rental car for the day so I needed to bring it back by 5 pm, unless USAA sent somebody out to inspect the damage, approve repairs to the back, and approve a rental for me also which seemed like a lot that would need to happen in one day.

So Geico put me in touch with USAA, and the guy who got on the phone said he would need 15 minutes to interview me which I didn’t have. I was about to go into the first of back to back meetings so I had to hang up, and I resigned myself to the fact that I would probably be taking back the rental car that afternoon.

About 3:00, I got ready to head across town to the repair shop to take back the rental and pick up my banged up car. I called USAA to go ahead and get their process started even though I presumed it would be too late in the day for them to send out a claim adjuster so I would have to make another repair appointment. And that was when I got Tumeka.

She went through with the 15 minute interview and then said thank you and they would be in touch at the conclusion of their investigation. I told her where my car was and she said she they were a USAA shop too so she could send in an order for them to look at the damage and make an estimate. After they made the estimate, then USAA would be able to approve the repair and get me a rental car for their portion of my repair.

It looked like this was becoming another Franz Kafka customer service moment of absurdity. I had to leave the car at the repair shop to get the estimate, and I had to pick the car up from the repair shop in order to take the rental car back since I couldn’t get a new rental until after the estimate was completed. I explained my dilemma to Tumeka, saying I knew it wasn’t her fault but asking her if she could see how this might be irritating.

And then Tumeka surprised me. She asked me if I could hold for a moment. She said that she was able to officially close the investigation because they had gathered all the information they needed from me and the guy who hit me. USAA agreed to pay for my back damage. She called the repair shop and told them that. So then I asked her about the rental situation. She told me to hold again. She was able to switch the rental agreement over to USAA electronically so I didn’t have to go in and do any paperwork.

Tumeka didn’t have to do any of this. I wasn’t her client. I was the other guy. Maybe to some people this isn’t that extraordinary. But to a cynical guy like me who often believes in Murphy’s Law more than God’s providence, it was a beautiful witness of the goodness of another human being, someone who has a really tough job dealing with grumpy customers like me. I left a gushing voicemail for Tumeka’s manager. And I guess I just needed to give her a shoutout on my blog as well. Don’t prejudge the human beings on the other end of the phone in the universe of customer service. You might just get another Tumeka. And maybe you ought to take a look at USAA if you’re shopping for auto insurance. 😉

5 thoughts on “Sometimes customer service sucks, but sometimes you get a person like Tumeka

  1. As someone who spent years working in several customer service jobs, thank you for highlighting this experience.

    Customers like you, the ones who say “I’m not blaming you for this problem I have, but can you help me anyway?” are so incredibly wonderful.

  2. this is STANDARD customer service from usaa. ive received nothing less than stellar treatment from them, personally and financially. even when my son wrecked my truck and then 3 months later did it well enough again to total it out.

    if you can be a usaa customer, do it. period.

    my truck was stolen in 2008. they gave me $500 for the property in it even though my homeowners policy with statefarm was the correct route. i was on tdy at ft gordon and strapped.

    christmas eve 2011 my car was looted for ALL the gifts. the did the same thing again.

    they stay profitable by dismissing cases fast and friendly rather than overstocking with expensive lawyers to deny and defend.

  3. I’ve noticed that professions that get a bad rap do so because so many in the profession act the opposite of their purpose. For instance, customer service is supposed to be just that: service to the customer, advocating for the customer and ensuring they get what they’re looking for. But in practice it’s often just another layer of bureaucracy. Insurance is the same way: the stereotype is that insurers try to squeeze the last penny out of you and try to find loopholes in your coverage so that they don’t have to provide you with what signed up and paid for. Which, as I wrestled with the idea of vocation over the last year or so, brought me to the conclusion that one of the simplest ways to be salt and light in your profession is to execute your job description. That sounds almost like a truism, but the point is that when so many are seemingly getting paid to see how much work they can avoid, it’s all the more refreshing when someone does their job well and with regard to the person they’re servicing.

    So good job Tumeka, whether or not she’s a Christian. And let it be a reminder of what we ought to do as Christians. Just my two cents.

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