Great Customer Relations Means More than Just Saying “Sorry”

So many companies talk about the importance of their customer relationships, but, in reality, what do they really do when something goes wrong?

Image – Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Facebook.

Insurance provider Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey decided that just saying sorry wasn’t good enough..

In a December 6th letter, Horizon notified 839,000+ customers that their sensitive private information might be at risk including name, social security number, address, date of birth, and insurance identification number.  The reason?  Two company laptops, which were “cable-locked to employee workstations,” were stolen from the headquarters office.

Horizon informed customers “we are not certain that all of this information is accessible,” explaining that the computers were password-protected but unencrypted.  Nevertheless, the company decided to take action, beyond the standard mea culpa and you’re on your own communication:

“However, as a precaution, we are offering you a free, one-year membership in Experian’s® ProtectMyID® Alert to help detect possible misuse of your personal information and provide you with identity protection services focused on immediate identification and resolution of identity theft.”

That’s a big investment in member relations and crisis management, even if only those deemed to be at social security number risk get the free protection.  At $15.95 per month, the Experian service costs $191.40 per year.  If Horizon covers 25% of those notified, the investment is more than $4 million.  (Horizon did not respond to a request for more information.)

Photo: usage rights granted by HubSpot.

I spoke with affected Horizon BCBS subscribers and learned it was easy to enroll in and access the Experian information.  Only an Experian credit report provided online from ProtectMyID® Alert is free.  Still, the service did enable a quick and easy check of sensitive personal information as an important first step response action.

So, when Horizon BCBS closed its letter with the standard language we associate in these cases – “Be assured that protecting your information is a priority” – there was at least some reason to actually believe they meant what they said.

Photo: usage rights granted by HubSpot.

To forge a lasting and meaningful customer relationship, the customer’s needs come first.  As Jeff Weinberger cogently notes:

“If your customer has a problem, you have a problem. It doesn’t matter if it might be their fault.”

Weinberger then succinctly gets to the heart of great customer relationship building:

“The only conversation your customer service team should have with your customer is about the result they need to achieve and how they can help the customer get there.”


When health insurance provider Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey learned that customers faced a potential loss of sensitive information, they didn’t just say sorry – they did something about it.  Horizon gave all its members a free year’s subscription to an identity theft identification and resolution tool.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who drives success in B2B/B2C organizations.

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