I discovered a personal angel

by Jewish Report | Nov 02, 2015

…and a lot about my own community too!

2015 has turned into a medical nightmare for me, but it could have been all the more so had I not been on the right telephone line at the right time and in the right place – which led to me discovering a personal angel.

Without wanting to punt any specific business or bore readers with any personal medical details, suffice it to say that I unexpectedly found myself requiring three hospital stays and a multitude of therapeutic expenses over the past four months.

This is as much a lesson learned about mega-companies and their call centres, as it is one of how my discovering Miss ‘X’ (now Mrs ‘Y’). And I think my experience may be useful to others as well.


RIGHT: And so I had to start relying on lifts – which taught me a great deal about my own community – see later

I have been with the same medical aid for over 20 years now – and watched their fortunes grow even as my own diminished.

And so it was that I was faced with the dilemma of requiring more medical services than, it seemed, either my medical aid or I personally could fund.

Or so I thought. What I had failed to understand, was that my medical aid did, in fact, provide for my needs all along. The plan and policy, that is, but not their call centre agents.

And so began a myriad of calls between myself and my medical aid’s call centre. Now, I am not unintelligent, and I have learned over the years that all call centres train their operators to do the following:

  • Find the script relating to the question you have been asked and stick to only giving the answer printed there;
  • If you are unable to find a script to match the question you have been asked, try to get rid of the caller;
  • Do your level best never to offer the dreaded “Let me find out for you..”, Or, worse still, “Let me escalate this call for you…”.

In fact, I think that call centre operators are penalised if they escalate a call to a supervisor, even at the caller’s request. Try it yourself, ask an operator when next dealing with a call centre whether they can escalate your call - and see how many excuses you get.

And so it was not unexpected that as my needs changed, it would require my making several calls and, when required, aggressively trying to get them escalated so that I had clear answers. Due to the ever-changing needs of my situation, I spent a large part of four weeks involved in this process.

After yet another change to my prognosis and expected needs, I couldn't face another long wait to speak to an operator whom I knew would have no scripted answer – leading to yet another aggressive push to try and escalate the call to supervisor, who themselves may not have the answer leading to another… etc etc.

This led to my pavement-standing

For the past four months, I have become a pavement-stander. Being unable to drive, I have had to rely on lifts from family, colleagues and friends. And this meant, for the first two months, and again now, standing on the pavement at a central Glenhazel circle - surrounded by an ever-increasing number of clusters – meeting, talking to and watching my neighbours in the early mornings.

Almost all of my neighbours are observant - given the proximity to shuls, schools and kosher stores. I was surprised how many of them run and cycle – and, I was to find out, have home gyms. As can be expected from the demographic, there were a good few commonalities in the hurdles they had to cross as frum families.

Wives and daughters have modesty problems, so they walk a lot. The guys are very involved in communal organisations, schools, shuls and the like, that their time is at a premium. Some belong to gyms, but they mostly don’t belong to clubs or enter in competitions.

I digress somewhat, but I assure you that at least 80 percent of those who live around me are members of the same medical aid, and some even work for, or are directors of, the company.

Pavement-standing became a catalyst

All this chatting with people in the heart of the community, and having a bit of time on my hands, led me to thinking... maybe the Jewish Report should look into this. Being an investigative reporter and online editor led me to looking further into the situation.

Do you have any idea how dangerous unregulated exercising can be? Sure, challenges exist for members of the community, but, simply put, just deciding to start running, cycling, walking, doing gym or any type of exercise willy-nilly can cause you injury and even shorten your life-expectancy! And, so can random attempts at one's own-remedies for WEIGHT LOSS! Becauas every human body is different. 

And so the idea evolved to run a competition and create some education and awareness of this.

comp home

LEFT: Competition logo

I was amazed how many solutions there are to the challenges, and to the extent to which those who provide the solutions were prepared to come on board and assist.

We ended up with so many service providers and free products to give away that we decided it was too much for one prize.

Ans so the idea developed of holding a PERSONLISED FAMILY FITNESS PACKAGE competition was born. We even had to hold back for a week as we had a host of unsolicited sponsors who had heard about it and came on board to get involved. SEE: PRIZES & ENTRY.

We have also partnered with 101.9 ChaiFM and our first show was a massive hit. Listen to the coverage and interviews on Fridays 6, 13, and 20 November when we will have lots more information and prizes to give away, as will we at the prize-giving on 25 November where expert sport scientists will be speaking.

Close the digression and back to my blog

And so I made a point of calling the medical aid, it was either on a public holiday or a weekend, I forget which, as I guessed (if they were open, that is), the call centre would be on a smaller staff and thus my query may go more smoothly.

As it happened, they were open, they were on the smaller staff level, and my phone call ended up in a lengthy queue. This turned out to be a good thing because, as I was late to find out, the company operates call centres around the country and automatically directs one’s call to the nearest centre.

Should the queue of phone calls be excessive, and should one of the other centres be more accessible, their system is designed to reroute their customer call accordingly. In my case, the call was rerouted to their Port Elizabeth call centre, where my inquiry led to my again being asked to address my request to a specified e-mail address.

Please don't misunderstand me, despite what may seem like a lot of running around (more like phoning around and e-mailing around) that I had to go through, ultimately the responses were friendly and generally successful. So, too, with the Port Elizabeth experience in which I was required to send an e-mail to a special department which promptly attended to my needs.

And then it happened...

On the first working day after my (at this stage, still unbeknownst to me, rerouted) Port Elizabeth call, I received a telephone call in early September from the person who was to become my personal special angel. She said that she had noted that I had called the previous day/weekend and wanted to know whether my call had been handled satisfactorily.

I'm not sure whether this is a something that is done randomly, regularly, or possibly which has been flagged by the call centre agent (who would have had no doubt about my level of frustration during our conversation).

I noticed that the call was coming from an 041 number and, having spent almost 30 years in Port Elizabeth and surrounds, asked how this had come to be. It was then explained how the call centre queueing system works at my medical aid.

As I was later to find out, the caller, Miss X, turned out to be the Clinical Client Relationship Manager, Eastern Cape Service Team- Clinical Customer Services.

Well, talk about the wrong person on the wrong day at the wrong time of their life… I explained that the call centre staffer had handled my inquiry well, had remained calm at my frustration about having to send yet another e-mail, and made mention of the fact that my intense frustration was not due to either the company or the products and support, but more to the fact that in my ever-changing situation, every interaction required a call, a wait for an agent, invariably an e-mail to yet another department, and are trying to keep track of where I was with each query, claim, or budget.

I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy a situation that has already required 53 professional appointments, three hospital stays, and filling countless prescriptions. I am still in the thick of 20 weeks of post-operative rehabilitation and six months without driving. So, to be fair, in the constantly changing environment that I found myself – and with my constantly changing expectations from my medical aid – our mutual frustration was to be expected.

Boy-oh-boy - did I pour out my frustrations

And so it was that I came to pour out all our frustrations of the previous few weeks to Miss X, who at that stage I thought to be a supervisor of the agent I had spoken to.

How awful, she said, calling up my file. Having seen the amount of activity over the past month she offered to become a “one stop shop” for me regarding everything but authorisations. She immediately sent me an e-mail and said that I should e-mail any queries I have directly to her and she would do her best to take care of them.

Miss X was certainly going above and beyond her call of duty in this matter, all the more so as the Eastern Cape was her area of operations.

Between that first encounter and my final operation I would guess there were at least a dozen interactions between us that would otherwise have required me to go through the process of call centre, e-mail, up-and-down responses – and the dreaded keeping control of it all.

Not only that, but on more than one occasion, Miss X pointed out that by simply submitting a claim for a service without specifying which allowance it should come from (and hence which codes should be claimed for) I was heading towards unnecessarily running out of certain allocations.

Not at all, sir, that's my job

At one stage, when I mentioned that she was probably ‘costing’ her employer money by teaching me how to use my medical aid properly, she replied that she was sure her employer be pleased and view it as helping a 20-year veteran customer how to properly use the service he is paying for.

On the day of my eventual major orthopaedic operation, Miss X was unable to contact me on my cell phone to find out how things had gone. (The reason for this was my son would not leave my cell-phone with me all day as I was ‘gaga’ from the anaesthetic.)

Miss X then took the trouble of dispatching a colleague who is based at Linksfield hospital to come and check on me and report back.

The weekend after my leaving hospital, Miss X was getting married (lucky groom, if my experience is anything to go by) and she advised me that she would be off for a few weeks and directed me to a colleague should I require anything while she was away. I diarised who return date and whom I should contact if needed (it wasn't). When I saw her name in my diary I dropped her a mail welcoming her back to work and mentioned that I was progressing faster than expected.

Believe it or not, the now-Mrs Y promptly checked my account and reminded me that there were still two things that I hadn't intended to, and, if left unattended, would cost me money.

I suppose it's in our nature as human beings to always be quick to complain, while seldom paying tribute when it is due.

As I said at the beginning, I have no intention of advertising any company or mentioning the name of the person who really did become my own special angel (or as she referred to it, my one-stop-shop) – but I certainly do believe that she deserves a huge accolade for going so far to ensure that a frustrated client was turned into a grateful one. And, as such, I have every intention of sending a note about the quality of service to the directors of the company.

Not, I'm sure, that this hasn't long-since come to the attention. After all, they have made her their Clinical Client Relationship Manager, Eastern Cape Service Team.


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