The Sandwich Technique
By Ron Rosenberg
Is it just me, or does it seem like the level of service has gone downhill rapidly in the last few years?
Sometimes it gets so bad you can hardly take it anymore. Fortunately, over the years, we've developed some strategies to deal with bad service, and today I'll share one of my favorites. But first, a little background to show you exactly how this technique actually works...
A Room with a VUE?
A while back, when our daughter went to college, we purchased a car for her to use (yes, that's right, we didn't give her the car - it was ours and we let her use it!) Because she was used to driving our old Jeep Cherokee, she felt more comfortable being "up high" in an SUV. We pointed out that she'd be putting a lot more gas in a SUV than in a normal car (yes, she was paying for her own gas - do you see a pattern here?) but since she was going to be the one driving it, and on the recommendation of our mechanic, we settled on a 2005 Saturn VUE.
Overall, the car has been good - she used it without incident through all four years of college, and when she graduated in 2013 and started her first job as a TV news reporter, we started to wean her off of our "payroll." Since we paid for college (not to mention the first 18 years of her life) we agreed it was time.
This meant she'd be taking full responsibility for her rent, her food, and...her car insurance, since we transferred the title to her name, making it now her car.
And even though she was now officially "on her own," we didn't just change the locks on the house and get new phone numbers. Kids graduating college seem to be lacking some basic survival skills - so we helped her research and select the best insurance for what she needed.
After researching rates with some local agents in the Wilmington area, where our daughter lived, we determined that, despite all the hype around their image - and direct-marketing advertising, Geico did actually have the best rates.
There was just one last thing we needed to check on: the extent of their "Roadside Assistance" coverage.
You see, even though the car had been reliable throughout her college career, it was creeping up in mileage, and a few problems were starting to pop up - in particular, a nasty habit the car had of losing power after it had been raining.
The nice thing is that her boyfriend's father is a mechanic, a very good one, and he takes care of her car for free. The only problem is that our daughter lived in Wilmington and he works in Smithfield - about 100 miles away.
In the past, we paid to have her covered under our AAA package that includes up to 100 miles of towing when the car wasn't working. But now that she was on her own, she was going to have to pay for this and the coverage was a bit expensive for her budget.
How Far Will You Tow Me?
We asked the Geico agent about their Roadside Assistance coverage. For about $8, she said, you could get towed up to 100 miles. Perfect. Just to be sure, though, we asked very specifically: "So if her car needs to be towed to Smithfield to get worked on by her boyfriend's dad, this will be covered?"
She actually put us on hold for a minute to confirm this, and then came back on the line and said, "Yes, absolutely."
So we went ahead and got that policy.
Hey, My Car Won't Go Above 40 MPH!
So about a month later, our daughter called us and said that the car wasn't shifting properly and she couldn't go more than 40 MPH. No problem - that's why we got the towing coverage!
So we called the Roadside Assistance number and were told, "We can tow the car to the nearest repair facility which is 12 miles away." When we mentioned that we actually needed it towed to the garage in Smithfield, the representative said, you can do that, but you'll be responsible for anything over the 12 miles."
We calmly explained that we were supposed to have up to 100 miles of towing coverage; the rep explained that they only provide towing to the nearest repair facility...up to 100 miles."
My wife's face turned beet red and she immediately called the insurance agent we had originally spoken with. The agent seemed puzzled about this, checked with someone else, and then came back on the line and said, "Yeah, actually, they're right. Sorry, you can only get it towed the 12 miles for free."
When we reminded her of our previous conversation, and the very specific question we asked about the very situation, she said, "I know I told you that - it's how I thought it worked, but I guess I was wrong. I feel really bad about that, sorry."
After a lot of heated and escalated discussion, and a failed attempt to get her manager on the line, I stepped in.
It's Time for a Sandwich!
No, I didn't take a "snack break" - I applied a very powerful and extremely approach we call "The Sandwich Technique."
Here's how it works:
- Try to resolve the situation with the front-line representative
- Ask for a supervisor and escalate a few levels - if they'll even let you
- Go to the company's website and locate the "executive leadership" page
- Find the name of the corporate vice president of customer service
- Get the phone number of the corporate office by looking through the site.
- Call the corporate office and ask for the person you identified by name
- Follow the example below and apply it to your own situation...
Them: Good afternoon, (name of company) corporate offices, how can I help you?
Me: I need to speak with Ms. XYZ please. (name of the executive)
Them: Thanks, I'll transfer you...
Them: Ms. XYZ's office, this is Sharon, how can I help you?
Me: I'm sorry, I know this should really be handled by someone way below Ms. XYZ's level, but I've tried everything I can think of, and I'm not sure what else to do - I'm hoping you can help me...
You then explain the situation providing as much specific information as you can, including dates and times of calls, names of people you spoke with, and a comprehensive overview of the situation.
Then say something like, "This doesn't sound like the kind of service I've come to expect from (name of company) and I'm sure Ms. XYZ would want to do something about it and speak with the agency that sold us your policy."
Now recognize that you won't ever actually talk to the executive in person, but the executive's assistant acts with the "implied authority" of the boss and can make things happen with a simple phone call.
And that's exactly how it worked out: about an hour later, we got a call from a vice president in the Roadside Assistance group who said she had authorized the 100 miles of towing. She said they were extremely sorry for the inconvenience, and that someone would be having a long and serious conversation with the owner of the agency.
So the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, don't get frustrated...go and grab a "sandwich!"