Customer service tips that actually work
A casual conversation with a long-time friend recently revealed that we were paying wildly different annual fees for the same satellite radio subscription. We had both spoken to customer service representatives to renew our memberships, but my friend was paying nearly double what I was for the same package. After comparing notes, we agreed that the disparity probably had something to do with how our customer service interactions had gone. (I was much nicer, I concluded, only half-joking.)
My approach to calling customer service has always been simple: be kind, be patient and be direct. I ask what promotions are available and if my current plan is the best they can offer, but I’m never demanding, rude or condescending. I’m also ready to walk away. I wanted that radio subscription, but I could live without it – and I’m sure the customer service rep could sense it. This strategy has helped me negotiate a better deal on my mobile phone, cable and Internet services, among other things.
Call centres have always been busy, but over the pandemic, their lines have been ringing off the hook. Volume and wait times have increased, often leading to frustrated consumers and stressed-out call centre employees.
Getting what you want from customer service isn’t always a given, but there are ways to stack the odds in your favour.
Understand your contract
We’ve all been advised to read contracts in full before signing, but many customers simply skim them. Unfortunately, this can result in frustration when there’s a gap between what’s expected and what’s been agreed upon. “Customers should understand the promise made to the customer by the company,” says Emily, 30, a long-time customer service representative who currently works for a vehicle rental business. She says most customer service issues she handles can be chalked up to someone ticking a box without reading the fine print. To avoid this scenario, read everything and ask clarifying questions before signing.
A lot of callers tell little white lies to manipulate the outcome of a customer service interaction – like fibbing about how frequently or infrequently they use a service. But a rep has a bird’s-eye view of your entire relationship to the company. Be clear, stick to the facts, and your honesty will often pay off.
“Today, a customer didn’t get the vehicle model he ordered,” Emily says. He quickly admitted he didn’t read the rental contract, which stipulates the company will supply another vehicle if a specific model isn’t available, and apologised. In response, Emily found the model he wanted at another location and credited him extra kilometres for the longer trip.