Introducing “lying” – the new customer service benchmark…

About 4 weeks ago a garbage truck ploughed into my car and did a few thousand dollars damage. He was the driver at fault.

I rang AAMI my insurer and explained the accident. Later I received a text message from Suncorp, saying “AAMI has attempted to contact you regarding claim xyz123. Please call 1300698749, 9-5pm Mon-Fri.

That’s strange I thought – a message from Suncorp representing AAMI – that’s a tad brand-confusing. They only have my mobile and I have no missed calls. So I called them back and was advised where to send the car for assessment.

The service was excellent and my policy covered me with a cheap hire car similar to my car. It also covered the cost of the taxi to take me from the assessor to the hire car company. I was told the job would take about 9 days, so I would get my car back the day before Easter . If it was to take longer I would be informed and could extend the rental.

My “similar” rental car is a 4 cylinder Toyota Corolla. My damaged car is a 7 seat Toyota SUV. So the planned road trip for the school holidays was cancelled.

the road trip was cancelled
the road trip was cancelled

The day before my repaired car was due to be available, Hertz rang me to confirm if I was returning the rental car. I said I had no idea as I was awaiting confirmation my car was fixed. So I rang the smash repairer for an update. “No mate it won’t be ready tomorrow, we’re waiting on a part that takes 3 weeks. Call us again in 2 weeks.”

In mild panic I rang the insurer to get the OK to extend the rental. This is when the fine print of insurance comes into play and you want to strangle the CEO of the insurance company.


They knew nothing about my car’s status, so I gave them the update. And then I’m told my policy only covers the discount rental for 10 days. I now have to pay full tote rental price over the holiday season if I want a car.

I am the victim here. Someone else runs into my car and I have to pay. Isn’t this why I pay for insurance, so I don’t have to pay when an accident happens?

I call Hertz back and he asks if I was given a discount code. I responded “what’s a discount code?”. He tells me I am entitled to a discount on the full rental price via the insurer.

So I ring AAMI back and ask for my discount code. They weren’t able to explain why I wasn’t given it beforehand.

The discount is not large and is wiped out when I select the cheapest daily insurance cover to ensure I don’t pay an excess of umpteen thousand dollars, if I get a scratch on the vehicle.

So now I am paying full tote on a holiday car rental and have no idea when my car will be repaired.

But then a strange thing happened. At 4.43pm I get the same text message I’d received the other day about how AAMI had tried to contact me, yet again I had no missed calls. At dinner with friends that night I discussed this and one of the fathers said he had a similar experience. He’d scrolled through his messages to see when he had missed AAMI’s attempt to contact.

Apparently they don’t attempt to contact you at all. They just lie to you.


They send an sms to you, so you have to pay for the return call and they don’t have to pay for someone to “attempt to contact you”. After all, it costs them more to reach you if you don’t answer on the first attempt. So they text you a lie to force you the customer, to pay for the phone call for their customer service.

What depths have we plumbed that brands need to lie to their customers to save themselves money? Why not just be honest and send a message that says “please call us regarding your claim number xyz123??”

Once again the small data fails, making the BIG DATA irrelevant.

Turns out they didn’t know as much as I knew about the status of my car – and I still haven’t heard from them this week. I assume the best I can hope for is another sms lying about their attempt to reach me and I’ll have to call them.

Lucky I’m with AAMI – not really.

not really...
not really…

Lucky I can shop around and switch insurers – absobloodylutely!

But they’re not the only brand practicing deceit. Telstra wrote me a letter last month claiming in a bold subhead “We recently tried to call you“.

a whole team tried to call me
a whole team tried to call me

The author even claimed his team had tried – yes folks, a whole team. It must have been very important for a team to call me. Yet the letter doesn’t say on what day, at what time, how often, or on what number they tried to call me. And given I can track missed calls, they now have me concerned.

That’s because like many thousands of Aussies I am an owner of Telstra – my hard-earned is invested in T2 shares (a disaster I know – should have invested in T1). Yes folks, like most investors I’m relying on marketers to succeed so I get a return on my investment – frightening really. And I suspect they don’t even consider this as part of their KPIs.

What concerns me more is this – if Telstra did telephone me as they claim to and I have no record of missing a call, is the technology broken? Have I invested in a dud? Should all shareholders be concerned? Maybe Telstra don’t know their phones don’t work and that’s why they couldn’t reach me!

Or is this just another fake marketing message passing off as customer service?

Who knows? I don’t have a record of a missed call. Telstra don’t provide any facts about the call – and it’s the facts that matter, not the puffery. The grammatically incorrect letter went on to tell me “we’re only a phone call away” and “If there’s anything we can do to help, just call us on 1800 886 720.”

Given my concern there was technical problem, I rang the phone number. It was answered by a recorded message welcoming me to the business improvement programme – which turns out to be on-hold music. Not much of an improvement – another lie maybe? So after a few minutes I gave up listening and waiting for the team to answer – a whole team and nobody was available.

I can hear your pain dear reader, so please scream now…


Why do marketers treat the people who pay their salary so appallingly? Why is there so little accountability? Are they really incompetent? Most have university degrees.

I’m sure this is driven by KPIs set by people who’ve never served a customer face-to-face, but have written lots of strategic documents. Some poor marketing sod has a KPI for customer engagement or some such rot. So the easiest solution is to send bulk lies to customers via sms, mail and email – the most powerful media channels – and claim success on the engagement KPI.

I’m off to ring my smash repairer – at least he answers the phone personally and tells it like it is – which is what I’m worried about…









  1. Malcolm, I refer you to

    This I think is the ultimate in making the WORLD aware of your problem.

    I think we have all had a similar experience, where the true story is never revealed, I am going through a similar debacle with Origin Energy currently.

    David Bonifant (Gold Coast “graduate” of your latest RP Data presentation)

  2. After our TV was stolen from our lounge room some years ago, the insurance company made us feel like the criminals in the course of making a claim.

    If I’d realised how they would treat us I would have claimed for all the collateral damage caused by the police forensics team with fingerprint dust.

    Needless to say, we switched insurers when our policy came due and now deal with a local crowd. We can actually go and talk to someone in an office!

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