Explaining Math to Dingbats, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the $#it$torm
I work in an insurance call center handling complex technical calls, escalations, and some cursory underwriting calls. Most of what I get are ho-hum technical calls from reps requesting my sage advice about how to handle a quote/policy question. I handle escalations about billing and underwriting, which are usually a variation of “How dare you tell me that you won’t insure ME for free!” Because I work a swing shift that borders on overnights, I deal with more than just your garden variety of Crazy or the demanding Karen. Most of my callers are people with enough dedication to call an insurance company at 2 a.m. to complain about their bills…and the majority of them are sober.
Right now is one of several busy times of the year for us. It’s busy enough where the Time Nazis, aka Workforce Management, put the kibosh on occurrence-free uses of PTO (with a few state-specific exceptions). The Corporate Overlords are encouraging us to do overtime by giving us additional incentives on top of overtime pay. Departments are having contests based on availability and working your scheduled shift. Anyone who knows me knows my employer is only blessed with my presence on my scheduled days at my scheduled times and ONLY those days/times…unless it’s incentive time. What no one could have anticipated was the clusterfork that the past week would be. Last Thursday, the Federal Reserve had its outage, which led to issues with several financial institutions and payments processing incorrectly. The flood of calls about that alone could keep my department gainfully employed for several years, on top of the usual callers. I’m questioning my life choices since I’ve signed up for so much overtime.
But my personal gem of the week came tonight from this guy calling to complain about his bill. A certain state that will remain unnamed decided to reform their no-fault insurance laws because their rates are statistically some of the highest in the country. To get the lower rate, though, requires a relatively large amount of effort on the customer’s part every single term. My opinion on this is that whoever came up with these regulatory requirements obviously never dealt with walking customers through something as mundane as insurance for a living. Remember, this is a product where getting the customer to make a payment can be like herding rabid feral cats to a swimming pool. You really think it’s going to be any better to make people complete multiple forms every renewal?
Customer wants us lower his rate, but he doesn’t want to send in the forms again because he’s sent them in already. The problem was that he blacked out his name from every single form he faxed in to us, including the pages that he’d sent to us that included his printed name and request to exclude himself. This obviously renders the forms illegible, since we can’t determine the identity of the requester outside of the policy number. Aforementioned state has a big problem with that.
First, he got offended at me using the word illegible and accused me of being racist. Then he asked what illegible meant. Yes, really, I had to define the word illegible for a grown man because he thought it was racist. He didn’t want people stealing his identity because these forms pre-print with your name and date of birth, and on the off chance that someone intercepted the fax at our company, he didn’t want to risk it. The Petty Peggy in me wanted to point out that an identity thief would ask about the meaning of a word before assuming it was racist, so would be a step up, but I really wanted off this call before losing gray matter.
That’s not where it ends. He ends up wanting to cancel his policy back almost a whole month because he now claims to have purchased other insurance. At this point, it’s not a threat so much as forking music to my ears. The catch is that because we never received the required documents that were legible, he would owe almost $400 to us if we cancelled the policy on his requested date.
Customer: “Why do I owe $400? That’s ridiculous!”
Me: “This coverage that you were trying to lessen/reject was added back on effective the start of the term. If you want the option you were requesting, you need to send valid forms.”
Customer: “Well, my new policy starts on date XX/YY. Will that make my balance any lower?”
Me: “XX/YY is __ days after XX/XX, so it would mean you would owe more money to us.”
Customer: “Why would I owe more money if I cancel at a later date?”
Me: “Your policy costs a set amount of money each day. You’re asking us to provide you for coverage for a longer period of time. So because we’re cancelling this policy later, we’ve provided the service for a longer amount of time. Therefore, we’ve earned more money.”
Customer: “But how does that mean I owe more money?”
Me: “Imagine your policy costs 10 dollars a day. You initially want us to provide coverage for ten days. That’s 100 dollars. But then, after day ten, you want to extend that to another ten days. We would then earn another hundred dollars.”
Customer: “That tells me nothing. I shouldn’t owe any other money.”
Me: “If the forms had been received, we wouldn’t have the balance. Do you want to send the forms to us?”
Customer: “That’s too much work and too much of a risk. I’ll cancel on XX/XX.”
Me: “We can do that, but you will show a lapse in coverage for __ days. Do you understand that if I process this cancellation for XX/XX, you will be without active insurance from XX/XX to XX/XY, which may result in fines and/or penalties?”
Customer: “Yes. I’d rather pay the DMV than you guys.”
TL; DR- I’ve been practically chained to my desk in the name of sweet, sweet overtime money along with the additional incentive pay. We had a bunch of hot-to-trot customers mad about billing. But my most memorable customer was a guy who thought the world illegible was racist, didn’t want to show his name on required forms he’d have to sign, and didn’t understand math.