Tips for Surviving Customer Service

Reviews | Tips

1. Document all calls
Make note of the time you call, are put on hold, and finally get through. Write down everyone’s names, and ask how to spell them, to show you are paying attention. Make notes on all that is agreed. If you have to backtrack with supervisors, saying, I called at 10:24 on Wednesday the 10th and spoke to Angela, stronger than, I called sometime last week.

2. Remember your call is a business transaction, not a personal relationship
Even though they are complete strangers, some customer service agents can make us more as angry than our closest friends and family. Remind yourself, and the agent, that you don’t know each other. Their insults and disrespect are not really about you. And your criticism or anger is about the company not that agent.

3. Encourage the agent to work with you (not against you) to solve your problem
This one is pretty Zen. And in some cases it may be impossible. But calls often start out with customers and agents on the defensive, because of unpleasant past experiences on both sides. Recognize that potential and don’t get blindsided by a particularly unhelpful agent. There are probably circumstances way beyond your control, or the agent’s, for that agent’s attitude. So work to get the agent on the same team as you, and maybe the company will follow. In the long run it is in the company’s best interest to resolve your issues to your satisfaction as quickly as possible.

4. Recognize your value as a customer, and use it, but don’t abuse it
Figure out how much you spend with the company each year — $100 a month is $1,200 a year. Don’t let the agent or supervisor disregard that worth. State your case unemotionally, and grounded in the facts. You spend money with this company. You are not getting paid to call them with this problem. In fact, you paid to be their customer. But the agent is getting paid to listen to and resolve your problem. Just remember, the agent might have to deal with one-hundred or more customers in a day. So try not to throw your weight around in a way that alienates the people charged with helping you.

5. Not all companies care as much about customer service as we might want
Some really backward companies still view customer service as merely an inescapable nuisance. Realize that most of the world is moving on from that retro view. You might not get better service, but you probably will be more likely to support companies with a cutting-edge customer service approach. Eventually laggards will be forced to catch up or fade away.

6. If all else fails, appeal to a higher power
Not a divine power necessarily, but when talking with agents and supervisors turns futile, take your story to the top executives — many in large corporations have people in their offices who deal with customer issues. Also, the internet has become an outlet for customer complaints. You can Twitter about the company or visit other consumer complaint sites that some companies monitor, such as Get Satisfaction or Consumerist. The internet can be the way out of a customer service dead end.

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