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  • Writer's pictureS. Liessi

There is no ‘salvaging’ this claims experience. Enough with the claims of ‘Customer Service'

CSI= Customer Service Incompetency

I spent 6 years as a high school teacher and one of (there are many) the most gratifying aspects of this position is the appreciation and respect that is given to teachers by their students. Synonymous with a rock star and their fans, or the importance of a good world leader. Some of our students may develop this type of appreciation because they are with you for three to four years, and some are with you for 5 months, regardless, it is second to none. Once they are set free from the confines of the education system, it is doubly gratifying when they reach out to you with matters unrelated to school. Why the moment of heartfelt sentimental reflection you ask? Well, just last week a student that I had, reached out to me regarding a small fender bender that transpired in a parking lot late at night. I appreciate that this individual reached out to me indicating that, in their view, it made complete sense, and that they trusted I would do right by them. This is the story of a simple turned convoluted disaster that has unfolded. A series of events that in my mind never should have transpired.

My past student related this situation in detail to me regarding the incident as follows: “Mr. Liessi, I was driving through the parking lot when this car backs out of their parking spot into the side of my car as I am driving by” “Can you help me in getting it fixed?” “I don’t know any shops or people I trust, I trust you to help with my car” Now to shed some context on this individual, for the past few months they have been sharing photos expressing their pride in the details of what they have been doing to said vehicle, modifications and personalizing of the vehicle, remarkably well done for their first car. Must say I am immensely proud of their achievements on this one, pride of ownership as I like to refer to it as. So, I explain that I am not directly able to “fix” the vehicle, however, I know a facility that has young techs that recently have proven to me they care about what they do, and a past student also works there. I said “keep me posted” as I have a truly genuine interest in what transpires.

As you can imagine, the estimate was over the value putting it into a total loss situation, more economical than physical. The vehicle required a door as the impact was on the intrusion beam, and a repair to the rear door as it was minorly damaged. Now, this is a first vehicle, so we are not talking a Bentley here, we are discussing a $2500.00-$3500.00 value range. This is where it begins to go south. First, the estimate was written and handed over, the estimate was good, used parts were taken into consideration and the labour was not blown out of proportion, a reputable establishment, hence the referral.

My student realizes the relation of value to repair and is now saddled with dealing with the insurance. Remember this situation (from my experience in insurance) leaves the other party at fault 100% The placement of damages supports this regardless of some people's skewed version of fault. As per protocol, the client is offered a settlement, and as per protocol it is low, so my student says “no” and contacts me again. I coach him on the process of gathering supporting evidence on the value and renegotiate the offer. Now, remember the only person that has seen the vehicle is the estimator at the shop, no one from the insurance has seen anything but possibly a few photos.

Imagine the surprise when said student receives a call from someone arranging the pick-up of salvage! The claim isn’t settled yet. How can it be salvage already, the client is trying to find a way to save their vehicle, as it’s not worth it to let it go. This I understand. So, they contact the insurance, only to learn they haven’t even established fault, yet they want to pick up the car. I get another call… I suggest that they go back to the shop and see if they can take blending off the estimate and possibly even apply some betterment in the effort to save the vehicle, the figures were doable. I coached them to engage in conversation with the adjuster on the pretense that economically it was in the insurance companies best interest to fix as salvage and the costs involved are well above the repair, making it a win for all parties, insurer saves, the third party saves, the shop gets a small job (work is sparse currently for all) and the client gets their car back on the road, all are happy. Feeling good about the conversation and the viable resolution, I believe my job is done. Until…. I hear “but Mr. Liessi…. What about the paper I got in the mail from Alberta Register of Motor Vehicles stating my car is deemed salvage from the insurance company?”


So, here we are no settlement, no-fault, request for salvage pick-up, AND documentation from the registry (which CANNOT be reversed once in place) all without a signature from the client. So, clients car is virtually taken away from them due to no fault of their own and now are placed in a very unfavourable position. The client calls up insurance to negotiate a possible repair plan and is told “you have two options: 1. Total it or 2. Drop the claim. How nice.


My last conversation with my student was this: “Get your comparables together, call the adjuster, relay that: a) Fault is not up for discussion as it is obvious, and not up to me to argue. b) I wanted my car, was willing to come to a favourable, reasonable repair plan c) I am now technically without a vehicle due to an error in process at your end. D) we now have no choice but to settle fairly based on comparables (told them to be realistic, not unreasonable). E) it may be time to get a supervisor involved or possibly the Ombudsman.

This never should have gotten to this, all the players involved could have made this a good experience (as good as an accident can be) Right from the shop to the claims department. Why the blog? Well, we are inundated on a daily bases by claims of “superior client service” “we are the best because of our customer service” Our company is rated #1 in client service”… yet daily, I am graced with the evident failure of these claims time and time again, please…enough. There were so many ways to fix this for all involved, however, customer service, client service require two major items: 1) communication I mean real communication, not lip service. And, 2) thinking outside of the box, looking at the situation and all the players involved, and what they can contribute, to provide real client service. In my opinion, and you are entitled to my opinion, for an industry that places so much on KPIs such as CSI, you had better get it together.

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