The Broken Brand Promise: Progressive

Dear Progressive:

Saul Bellow wrote a novel, Herzog, in which the hero occupied his time writing angry letters to public figures. I really don’t have time to do that, but the customer experience I just had has provoked my literary spirit. It’s restless, so here goes:

I am your auto insurance customer. I love you because you are always helpful, sympathetic, professional, and your reps are trained. I have never had a bad customer experience with you before.

So of course I was thrilled to get a mailer saying that I could bundle my property insurance with you. I own a condo and rent a house. I needed two different policies, so I called the number on the mailer.

First I found out you don’t even really DO homeowner’s experience, you have it underwritten by someone else. So you are just a marketing front end  for someone? Well, that’s a little misleading, but still okay…I thought.

So it’s IDS-Ameriprise, and you automatically transfer me to them. I get on hold, with music, and marketing messages, then after five minutes (a time for which I never would have held except that it was YOU) the robot woman declared “we know this wait is not up to our usual standard for customer service. Thank you for holding. You will hear no further messages.” Two minutes of Muzak later, I hung up.

And where did I go? to my blog and my social networks, where I can be disgruntled in a large network of similarly inclined customers. We’re social now, Progressive, and we don’t take any b.s. from brands saying they are known for their customer service and don’t mean it. We articulate our complaints and spread them like the uncovered sneezes of someone in a crowded room with the flu. The virus of bad feeling toward you will spread.

What about your brand promise, Progressive? What, you say it isn’t “really” you? Don’t you vet your partners? Do you just do a rev share, send a mailer, and hope it all turns out all right?

No chance. It is you. It was your brand promise that made me call in the first place. I know you are never the low cost provider, but I was paying for the service. It seemed, like your name, well…Progressive.

And now you have broken your brand promise to me, and both you and Ameriprise have lost my business. Not only that, but I am optimizing this post for search engines, which I don’t usually take the time and energy to do, since I don’t blog for money. And I’m putting it on all my social media platforms, too. What’s that old saying, a satisfied customer will tell two or three people, but a dissatisfied one will tell 8 or 10? I told you it’s an old saying; clearly it was written before Facebook and Twitter.

Let this be a lesson to you other brands out there. Don’t mess with the social customer. It can be costly in the long run. It’s cheaper just to pick up the phone within two minutes.