My Precious Pennies

I will be AWAY until late February as we do this moving thing...again.

Ginger from Attention Target Shoppers & Tricia from 1stopmom
will be holding down the fort in the meantime - thank you so much, ladies!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tipster Tuesday: how to get GREAT customer service

I'm sure we've all had the pleasure of receiving less than satisfactory customer service, either in person or over the phone. Many times it seems that these representatives are merely robots reading from a script with no problem-solving mind of their own. Instead of serving the customer, the representatives are a broken records of company policies, fees, and restrictions. Well, on this Tipster Tuesday, I bring to you some tips on how you can get GREAT customer service...yes, even from 1-800 numbers!

Note: Please be courteous, calm, and reasonable when following these steps. I am by no means telling you to go on a screaming rampage on the phone. Do not threaten, do not be rude and condescending, do not scream and shout...just politely but forcefully deliver your point.

1. Know what you want
Before you even make the call or go into the store, know what you want. At first opportunity, give a brief summary of your issue and end it with what the representative will do for you today. If you're calling about a refund for a broken product, instead of saying "I was wondering what you can do for me since it broke after only a week", say something along the lines of "The product broke in just a week's time, so I am calling today for a refund". By doing so, you set the tone and goal for the conversation, instead of allowing the representative to steer the conversation.

2. Know who you're talking to
Pay attention when they mention their name. If you didn't catch it, ask them again. Also ask if they have an ID number or some other way to identify them. And then make a note of it. If you end up getting less than satisfactory service from this person, you will know who you talked to and this information will help for further contacts with the company. Saying "I spoke with Tom, ID number 1234, last Tuesday afternoon around 4pm" is a lot more powerful than saying "I spoke some gentleman last week". I've also noticed that some representatives perk right up when they know they can be held personally accountable.

3. Help them help you
Have all of the information that you could possibly need right in front of you. Mention as many details and facts as you can. It makes a difference if you can provide the street address of a store instead of saying "the store in Townsville next to that one Target". If anything, it just shows that you know exactly what you're talking about and you are serious about this - you will not let little details slip through the gaps. If you're calling about unsatisfactory customer service, have names and ID numbers at hand. If you're calling about a bill, have it in front of you and the relevant charges circled so you can provide the exact amounts.

4. Do not take "no" for an answer
Chances are, after you state your goal, the representative will reply stating that they can't do that. Well, at this point, you need to calmly but assertively restate your problem and your proposed solution. Rephrase your initial statement, and add in some other important factors such as your past patronage. "I've been very satisfied with your other products and I've used them for years, so I decided to give this one a try, but its very disappointing and damaging to your company's reputation to see that your new products break so easily".

5. Be willing to take substitutions
Although it is important to set your goal and know what you want, you also need to be flexible. Remember that something is better than nothing at all. Your goal might not be possible within the company's system, and you will have to be flexible. You may have wanted a check for your purchase price, but instead you're offered a gift card. Take it. Realize that it may not be possible for them to write out random checks to random people. You can use the gift card to either replace the product or buy something else, or you can give it away as a gift. Either way, that gift card will cut down on your future expenses. It may not reimburse your money already spent, but it will enable you to spend less in the future.

6. Know when to quit, or move on
If you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, ask to speak with a supervisor. Chances are, the person on the other line is feeling frustrated also. They simply might not have the knowledge or power to help you. Ask to speak with a supervisor and use that connecting down time to re-collect your thoughts and re-compose yourself to present your case to a person with more knowledge and power to help you. If you feel that you're not accomplishing anything on the phone, maybe it's time to ask for a customer service address and write a letter instead. This is where all those names and ID numbers that you wrote down comes in handy.

7. Exercise your right as a consumer
You are paying these people your hard earned pennies to serve you. If they are not serving you, then stop paying them. Cancel your service. Take your business to a competitor. Tell your family and friends, and encourage them to do the same. And make sure the company knows this. When you mention a competitor, it helps if you know current deals they have. Companies want to make money, and without customers they can't do that. No, you won't get anything for canceling or going elsewhere, but you'll get the piece of mind that you will never have to deal with their (lack of) service again. And just because you can't recuperate your losses, it doesn't mean that someone else has to fall into the same hole as you. Tell everyone that will listen about your experience. In my opinion, if I can prevent at least one person from having to go through the hell that I did, at least it wasn't all for nothing.

Follow these simple tips, and you should start seeing better interactions and treatment by companies. But please, be courteous and reasonable when dealing with customer service. If you're the type of person that's quick to anger, then maybe you should consider writing a letter or email instead of speaking to a live person. If you need time to compose your thoughts and you're not confident in your ability to think on the spot, then again, maybe it's better to write a letter or email, or make yourself an outline or notes before the call.

I am by no means an expert in getting what I want from companies, and the above are just methods that have worked for me through my many experiences. I actually wish I didn't know anything about this, because I do not relish the fact that I have bad experiences that require me to spend hours on the phone, nor do I like the fact that the companies that I patronize are so incompetent that they keep making mistakes at my expense. This is something that I do not because of monetary value or compensation that I may be eligible for, but it is for the simple principle of the matter. I, as a customer, expect to be treated with respect and my business be dealt with in an accurate fashion.

Good luck with your customer service adventures!

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