02 March 2010

Customer Service That Works!

I consider myself a pretty "up to date" person. I prefer to pay bills before they are due, and make an attempt to look at statements. Financial statements, at least.

Today I found a piece of mail stuck to another envelope as I was paying bills and sorting tax paperwork. Imagine my surprise when I discover a notice from my insurance company (Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company - yes, I'm giving credit where credit is due) "prepared on February 10, 2010". It told me that:
"1/8/2010 - We previously billed you."
"2/1/2010 - We did not receive your payment."
...along with a few more boxes that indicated that if they did not receive $81.16 by February 27, my home owner's insurance was null and void. Today is March 2.

I bought my first house in 1993, the second in 1999, this one first in 2002, a refi in '07, and outright in 2009. I've NEVER paid a home owner's insurance policy premium. It has always been paid from closing costs and escrow payments by the loan servicing company.

However, I made a tactical error when I bought out my former roommate and still best friend Scott in July 2009. I went with a "low-ball" mortgage broker. It cost me a lot. Money-wise and headache-wise. Total lack of communication, and then they "lost" my first payment so I had to spend hours on the phone with Security American Mortgage (the idiots) and Bank of America (the heroes). BoA worked with me then to get the payment, at no penalty to me. (SAM held the money for over 60 days after telling me to pay them since they had not sent the package showing who they had sold the mortgage to.)

Fast forward to March 2, 2010. I am paying bills, sorting tax stuff, and find a Nationwide Insurance envelope stuck to another envelope. I open all of their correspondence. It's my INSURANCE COMPANY!!! OF COURSE I LOOK AT THEIR MAIL! But this envelope was different. This one was telling me that my house was no longer insured against fire/peril/catastrophe. For non-payment of premiums. SAY WHAT???

I grab my BoA Mortgage statement. Undecipherable, so I call. I have learned the tricks of automated phone systems. Give them the basic ID, then when they start wanting to know what you want to do, hit 0. That usually gets you to a real person. Try it at various times. (If that doesn't work, choose "ESPANOL", then say "habla ingles?" Most are bilingual, and the connect time to Spanish speaking reps is much faster than waiting on an English speaker.) Punching zero a couple of times takes me less than 5 minutes to get connected to a real person.

Agent Y7FO is completely professional in the face of a somewhat miffed client. "Why didn't you pay the d*#! bill?" is the basis of this conversation. He quickly figures out that they never received a bill from Nationwide. They pay the bills as soon as they come in. He assures me that if BoA can talk to Nationwide, a payment can be set up immediately. Say WHAT?

So now I have to call Nationwide. Nationwide does not identify their agents by name or number, but the gentleman that answered the phone was quick to assuage my fears. He also assures me that my policy has not lapsed. Thank you bad weather. Nationwide placed a moratorium on policy lapses because of the awful January and February weather in Virginia. WHEW!!!!!! But what is the next step?

The Nationwide agent was looking at my file, and he mentions "Security American Mortgage". OOOPS. Another sign of SAM's incompetence. Most sellers of mortgages pass on ALL the information that is associated with the file. They did not. So I get this straightened out. Now Nationwide knows that BoA owns the mortgage.

Nationwide calls BoA and conferences me in on the call. After all the preliminaries, they are talking together. All info is exchanged, and BoA is ready to get a payment to Nationwide in 2-3 business days. Nationwide  annotates the policy to show payment is pending, This holds off any further cancellations.

Pretty amazing how two huge companies, who are convinced that automated telephone systems are the way to go, can actually manage to connect me to two live human beings, who speak unaccented English, and solve my problem in less than 30 minutes of connect time. Of course, the premium went up $24 a year, on a house whose value diminished by $12,000 since last July. But if it burns down, Bank of America will get their money from Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company!