Customer service, how I loathe thee. Let me count the ways. The never-ending loop of obnoxious hold music. The pressure to buy new products and services. The poor-quality, outsourced call to a distant land.
A call to customer service can be an infuriating ending to a frustrating experience. You’re upset and looking for empathy, but all you encounter is disappointment. Could Company X have done something differently? Probably, but if you follow these tips when dealing with customer service, you’ll be in the driver’s seat for the next dispute.
1. Be prepared.
Seems basic, right? Unless youíve called Company X several times, you’ re probably not familiar with their required information. Have every tracking number, account number, itemized statement, and order number before you call. Customer service representatives are held responsible for torturous call-handling metrics designed by masochistic management. Length of call, resolution (if the customer calls back to the company within an allocated amount of time), and randomly monitored calls are measured stringently. Bottom line: they want to help you quickly and completely, lest a superior crack a whip.
2. Be nice.
Customer service representatives speak with upset, irritated, and/or irate people all day. Every day. You may not agree with a credit denial, but screaming ìthe customer is always right, (expletive)!î will not help. Be pleasant and the rules may be malleable. Be another unpleasant customer and the guidelines will be set in stone.
3. Know when to call, know when to write.
If you need to request a price quote, add/remove a feature, or ask for explanation of a bill, e-mail is the most efficient route for your correspondence. For repair concerns or credit requests, call customer service. Repair specialists will need to troubleshoot and get access information should a technician need to be dispatched. Credit requests can be handled via e-mail, however, it is easier to reply with a “credit denied” form letter than to deny credit to a real, live person.
4. Get on record.
If something is not working properly, call the company immediately. If there is a cable, satellite, or phone outage, Company X will only be able to diagnose and correct the problem if they are notified a problem exists. This also establishes a record of communication should you need to request a credit or refund at a later date.
5. Be persistent, but not obnoxious.
Many companies have guidelines for dispensing credit that require denial the first time for any request that is not a previously-reported “out of service” issue or a known billing error. The second time a credit request is made, these guidelines can be relaxed. If you have followed the ìbe niceî tip above, you may be rewarded with your credit request.
Following these five tips will help you get what you want in the most efficient manner possible. Stay tuned for the next installment to find out how you can aggravate the customer service experience and actually delay resolution!
6. Don’t drink and dial.
It seems like a good idea at first; the mind says no, but the six-pack says yes. Youíve had a great relationship for years. Why throw it all away over a silly dispute? You decide to pick up that phone, one last time, and see if they realize what theyíre missing. Has this logic ever worked? Here’s a hint: no. Calling customer service in an obviously altered state of mind will cause your pleas to fall on deaf, yet slightly amused, ears. If you want customer service to take a complaint or concern seriously, save the six-pack for when you call your ex.
7. Call during off-hours.
Yes, hold music is corporate America’s version of water torture. To keep your sanity intact, try calling during off-hours. What are off-hours, you ask? If Company X has 24×7 customer service, try calling after 10pm. If not, try calling Tuesday-Thursday between 10am-8pm or any time on Sunday.
8. Don’t call a “special number.”
The blog of a spurned employee, a news station, or a radio show might give you some kind of ‘secret ‘ and ‘ internal’ number to Company X. They may claim it will eliminate hold time. Oftentimes, these ìspecial numbersî are specifically for field technicians or an obscure department that cannot handle the concern. Call the main customer service number and pick the correct department. The towering inferno that is the Voice Response Unit may mistake your spoken request to “pay a bill in Iowa” for “:cancelling all services immediately in Connecticut,” but simply stating “agent” to the VRU may get you to a real, live person. If “agent” does not work, try similar terms such as ” operator,” ” representative,” ” customer service,” ” parasite from the nether world,” or ” spawn of Satan.”
9. Escalate, but only if necessary.
If there’ s no light at the end of a bleak tunnel, ask for a supervisor; however, do not immediately ask for management if you were mishandled on a previous call. Customer service representatives undergo weeks of training and, oftentimes, are more familiar with current customer issues than their supervisors. Supervisors are there to ensure that customer service representatives are doing their jobs; it is the job of the customer service representative to handle your call and concern.
10. Carefully consider contacting outside regulatory authorities.
If absolutely necessary, contact the Federal Communications Commission, established in 1934 to regulate communications by wire, cable, satellite, radio, and television. Complaints to the FCC are taken seriously and will be handled at Company X by a department well trained on their rules and regulations. Due to the escalated nature of this department, they may have higher hold times and more restricted hours of operation than regular customer service. If youíve been completely, hideously, utterly, and unforgivably wronged, feel free to call a regulatory organization. If youíd like to voice a complaint, but do not need any further action taken regarding your concern, call or e-mail the company itself.
If you follow these ten tips, the balance may swing in your favor. May the customer service workforce be with you.