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USAA – the model of customer service

by Philip Sellers

In light of HP’s crap support yesterday, today I thought I’d relay something more positive towards a company I admire. This time its not Apple. Its USAA – the United States Automobile Association.

USAA is a bank/insurance/financial company which is a member’s only corporation serving active and former members of the armed forces and their families. Once you’re a member, you are a member for life and your children can inherit membership, along with their children and so on. My wife and I are members thanks to her grandfather Fischer, who served in the Air Force for many years.

Background aside, I can’t remember when I’ve been more impressed with a company. USAA is not only a financial company that really has great products to offer. I think there are lots of those companies out there. USAA just gets customer service. That is what makes this company so different.

We first heard of them through friends Bill and Amy years ago. They banked with this company and raved about how wonderful they were. But they were completely online and by telephone. No branches. But you could use any ATM in the world and would be reimbursed the charges. I wasn’t immediately impressed by the no branch idea, but eventually we gave it a try.

Setting up our accounts couldn’t have been more simple. Their website is a model of efficiency and services. When we started with them back in 2002 – they were so far ahead of the curve online compared to many of the national banks.

But the first times we had to call in and speak with their phone support was really when we became smitten and amazed that a company like this existed. First, their phone support was staffed by Americans! Coming from my tech support background – that just isn’t the norm today. Second, they were friendly and actually on the phone to help serve you the best way they could. Their staff actually want to help and were knowledgeable — think Wal-Mart associates, only the exact opposite!

The real shining light for me was dealing with them for a home equity line of credit and then later for a refinance on our home. With the line of credit, my wife and I applied online on a Sunday evening. On Monday morning, I received a call from the LAWYER’S office wanting to SCHEDULE the closing! I hadn’t even heard back from USAA to know I was approved, and yet they had already begun setting up the next steps. I received a call from USAA a few minutes later and the representative walked me through everything else. Just 36 hours after my initial application, I closed on and received the ability to transfer funds from the line of credit. I DARE any other financial company to touch that!

And don’t get me wrong, in this day in age, we have to think about fraud and all the other negative, but its not that USAA was derelict or whilly nilly when lending to us – they had our financial profile and were able to make a determination that quickly due to the amount of technology they imploy. When talking with the representative that morning, she had already been able to pull an appraisal from an online resource, and although I felt the estimate appraisal was low, it was still much more than what I requested to be loaned, so it had been pushed through without question. My point is that USAA had crossed their T’s and dotted their I’s before approving the credit line, but were still able to do it in under 12 hours!

As mortgage rates hit rock bottom, we shopped for a refi to reduce our mortgage to a 15 year. Again we chose USAA. By now we knew their customer service and knew it was a great choice and we also knew that they really focused on helping their member/customers. Again, it was a wonderful experience. How may people say that about getting their Mortgage??

The verbose post is really just a few examples of how great this company is to work with. Every phone call is always pleasant and even if they aren’t able to offer a product, the representatives try and work with you every way they can. They consistently go above and beyond, making suggestions for your best interests. Each representative is always well versed in their product line and any lines attached to them, so they speak with expertise when you’re trying to make decisions.

So many companies can take a page out of this book. It instills trust in the company, loyalty and a desire for the customer to do repeat business. It also makes for customers who talk the company up to their friends and family (much like this post). So, if you or your family were members of the armed forces – you really should check out USAA – www.usaa.com.

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