The only thing more infuriating than purchasing a defective product or staying in a filthy hotel room is getting a nasty (or nonexistent) response when you let the company’s customer service department know about the issue. The process can be so frustrating that poor customer service has led more than half of consumers to switch companies, according to a recent report from Accenture.
While companies deserve plenty of blame for providing poor customer service, sometimes customers can do a better job as they pursue a solution. Follow these steps to have the best shot of reaching an outcome that makes you happy.
1. Know what you want (and be reasonable). It’s usually fair for a customer unhappy with a product or service to ask for an exchange or refund. If you’re looking for a more complicated remedy such as a free upgrade, be ready to ask for it specifically and to lay out the case for why you think you deserve it. Prepare for the conversation by having supporting documents (such as a receipt, account number and passwords) readily available. “Go in with the understanding that it may take some time to get your issue resolved, and it may require some work on your part,” says David Beinhacker, chief research officer with Customer Care Measurement and Consulting.
Take a minute to read through company policies on its website. If you’re asking for something clearly outside of the policies (such as a return after the window has closed or the waiving of a fee that you agreed to), understand that the company is under no obligation to do so.
2. Be nice. As angry as you may be, it’s worth remembering that the customer service rep isn’t responsible for causing your problem, but they may be capable of fixing it. Stand out from the irate callers they have to deal with all day long by calmly laying out your case and remaining polite throughout the process. Taking a second to offer a pleasantry at the start of the conversation can help set a positive tone at the outset. Remaining polite will not only give you a more credibility and a better shot at a satisfactory resolution, but it will also make the process less stressful for you. “Whatever the problem is, it’s not the customer service rep’s fault,” says Chris Brantner, founder of CutCableToday.com, who advises consumers on how to cancel cable or lower their monthly bills. “If you come in angry, they’re not going to want to go the extra mile to help you out.”
Tell the customer service rep your name and ask them for theirs. That will help build a rapport between you, and you can use their name throughout the process. You’ll also want to write down their name (and rep number if they have one) just in case you need to follow up on the issue later.
3. Check for social customer service reps. While it can be tempting to take all your customer service gripes online and air them on social media, there’s a better way to use those channels to get what you want. Check the Facebook and Twitter pages for the company you’re trying to reach to see whether they’ve got a dedicated social customer service team. Sending a direct message to those accounts will get their attention more quickly than simply broadcasting your complaint.
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If you don’t get a response within an hour, or if there’s no dedicated customer service handle, see if there’s a live chat option on the company’s website. That option may be faster than calling on the phone, and if you save the text of the conversation, you’ll have a paper trail documenting any promises.
4. Pick up the phone. If it works, social media is the fastest way to get a hold of a customer service rep, but for complicated issues or for companies without a big social media presence, the phone is your best bet for a resolution. Research by CMCC shows that customer satisfaction is universally higher for those who reach customer service via phone rather than through other channels. “There’s an ability to get into nuances in telephone conversations, to ask follow up questions, and to receive a true, genuine apology that might not come across in boilerplate emails,” Beinhacker says.
Google the company name and the words “customer service” to find the direct number you need. If you’re calling a large company and you end up with a rep who’s rude or condescending, just hang up and call back. You may get luckier the next time you call. If you get a rep who is pleasant but simply seems unable to help you, ask to speak with their manager and escalate the issue.
5. Put technology to use. The website Lucy Phone will allow you to enter a phone number and receive a call back when someone answers so that you’re not wasting time sitting on hold. The startup GetHuman takes the process a step further, allowing you to authorize one of their experts to call the company and negotiate on your behalf for a small fee.