Sometimes things just don’t go right; you buy a piece of hardware and find out it’s broken. Or a service provider overcharges you by a significant amount, or a piece of software proves extra-buggy, or … you get the picture. I suspect you can probably think least one case in the last two weeks where you’ve had to talk over the phone or email to some company’s technical support or service department.
While many times these things go just fine (especially when you make sure to deal with companies that have great customer service), sometimes they just don’t work out well. The support people don’t understand you, or they refuse to help you, or you get bounced around between different departments in a vicious cycle of red tape. Just then, when things start going really wayward, is when you most need to keep your cool and be effective so that you do manage to work things out.
I’ve had the dubious pleasure of surviving one truly horrible customer service experience in the past month, and decided to share some of the tips that got me through to the other side. Here goes:
The person on the other side of the line is probably trying to do their job. They are trying to do what is right (maybe for the company, maybe for you). At any rate, they are following company policy or some line of reasoning. When things start going badly, one of the first things we do is stop listening. When you get angry at the other person, force yourself to calm down and listen to what they are saying. Try following their line of reasoning, because only then will you be able to convince them to help you.
This point is very related to the previous one. It’s very tempting to get angry at the other side; once things start going wrong, the other person is the personification of all that is evil and all that is wrong with the particular company or product you’re having trouble with. Only the truth is, they aren’t. The calmer you stay, the more chance you have of being listened to.
Know What You Want
Before you call or email, you should have a very specific idea of the outcome you’re trying to achieve. Get a false fee cancelled, return a device, whatever the case may be – make sure you know exactly what it is you’re trying to get. This way you can say what you want time and again, and steadily work towards this goal during the conversation (or conversations).
Compliment What Is Right
Almost always (even with the most “evil” corporations) something is done right. Perhaps one part of the product works well; perhaps you got a prompt reply (even if it wasn’t the one you were looking for). Be sure to find whatever is right and compliment that. Show the other side you’re not a negative person out to get them or stir up trouble. A well-placed compliment can go a long way towards establishing goodwill and getting the other person to truly want to help you.
Keep Your Story Straight
When we’re mad, we sometimes tend to embellish things. Perhaps when we began the support call, we described one set of events. As the call drags on and we get transferred around, it is easy to begin exaggerating the facts to make your point and seem more urgent. This is usually a mistake; most companies record their phone calls (not to mention their emails), and being inconsistent will make it easy for the company to claim that there was never an issue in the first place, or that things are not as serious. So make sure you have your facts straight before you begin, and repeat one version of events with whoever you’re talking to. You can even write down the basic facts on a “cheat sheet” and keep it handy for reference.
Insist On Getting a Name And Write It Down
On the other side of the line there’s a human being, and knowing their name (and repeating it) would help you both remember that. While sometimes you absolutely cannot get a name (this happened to me), if there is any way you can get the other side to say their name, write it down and use it. It helps build rapport, and is generally polite.
Don’t Make It Personal
This seems to directly contradict the previous bit of advice, doesn’t it? Actually, it doesn’t. Keep in mind that the other person probably has nothing against you, even if it doesn’t always look that way.
Hang Up and Call Back
This is a tactic I’ve used successfully numerous times. Customer service reps are not all equally experienced. It has happened to me before that a rep gave me bad service or was unable to resolve the issue. Rather than finalize anything with them, I apologized, hung up, and immediately called again. A different rep would pick up the phone, I would repeat the same request and get a completely different reply (often a more helpful one). This doesn’t work every time, but if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere with the current rep, it is certainly worth a shot.
Speak To a Supervisor
Last but not least, you can almost always escalate things to a supervisor. That doesn’t always help, but if you’ve tried everything with the current representative and even tried switching reps, ask to talk to whoever is in charge.
Did you try any of these tactics? Did they work? What are your own favorite tips and tricks for dealing with horrible customer service? Do share!