Dealing with the death of someone close can be traumatic and terrifying in equal measure. And when you’re the person left with the probate tasks, one thing soon becomes apparent: how service providers treat you is really, really important.
When my mum died somewhat unexpectedly this summer, as her only living close relative, I was the one left dealing with probate.
I’ve never had to do anything quite so sad as work my way through mum’s paperwork, phoning up strangers to let them know what had happened, when I had barely come to terms with it myself.
Thankfully, most dealt with the matter sensitively and efficiently.
NatWest was very helpful in explaining that it could pay the funeral expenses direct and sending me all the relevant paperwork. Mum’s phone provider, O2, had a dedicated bereavement team, as did her energy supplier, M&S Energy. Even her dental insurer was kind and helpful on the phone.
But my dealings with Virgin Media left me reeling.
Service providers and death: dealing with grieving relatives
I found it odd that a company with so many customers didn’t have an easily accessible bereavement team, but I duly rang the main customer-service centre. ‘We can’t do anything without a password,’ was the default response.
I was then asked, repeatedly, for a power of attorney. I explained, repeatedly, that a power of attorney was no longer relevant as mum had died. ‘Oh, is she already dead?’ came the reply. Sensitivity wasn’t the strong suit.
It was only when I refused to send a copy of the will (why wasn’t a death certificate good enough?) that I was put through to someone who promised to close the account in a few weeks’ time. I gave them my details and they said they would send all closing correspondence to me.
Two weeks later, and Virgin Media was still billing my mum for its future service.
Service providers and death: not getting it right
After taking to Facebook, I finally spoke to someone at Virgin, who told me they couldn’t, in fact, change the account name. ‘I just don’t see the point in you continuing to bill someone who I’ve told you is dead,’ was my exasperated reply. No, they couldn’t explain it either.
The account is now finally closed, but I am still upset and angry about the whole thing. In fact, I’ve switched to another provider myself, because I don’t want to have to pick up the phone to Virgin Media ever again.
One thing is painfully apparent – kindness and sensitivity go a long way at a difficult time; get it right, and your customers will be more likely to stick with you.
Have you had to deal with service providers and death at the same time? If so, how were you treated?