Seven Tips for Getting Better Customer Service

December 2015

Dealing with customer service for products and services is a fact of life. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 88% of survey participants had dealt with customer service at least once during the year. Of the participants, a majority indicated that dealing with customer service is a time-consuming and frustrating process.

The need for customer service range from repair requests for utilities, services, and products, to help with troubleshooting new devices, to correction of faulty bills. The holiday season also brings gifts of new toys and products that increase the need for customer service.

Dealing with customer service at most companies is viewed as a time-consuming and frustrating process. Major complaints include: being unable to find a customer service phone number, automated phone trees that are difficult to figure out, being put on hold for long periods of time, having to call multiple times, and having to talk to multiple representatives to secure a resolution to the problem. Often times, customers will just quit trying due to frustration. You don’t have to take that route. You can avoid these frustrations by following these seven tips to help you get better customer service.

1. Gather Information about the Problem Product or Service

Before you pick up the phone or start writing a complaint email, make sure you have gathered all the information you need on the product or service you're having a problem with. For services such as a utility or media account, make sure you have the account number and the latest bill/statement. For a product such as an appliance or electronic device, make sure you have the make, model number, serial number, and warranty information on hand. For service or products, jot down a description of the problem you have so that you can explain fully and consistently to any representatives you talk to.

For both services and products, it is smart to check out any information you can find on the company’s website before you contact customer service. Many companies today try to steer customersto web-based help first, rather than live, personal service, so be sure to check out their FAQs and Troubleshooting pages. If you have read the online material and it was not helpful, you can say so when a customer service representative tries to send you to back to their website. In addition, some consumers have reported that you may get faster service by using the live web chat feature offered on the customer service webpage of many companies.

2. Find the Customer Service Phone Number

Many companies provide a clearly visible customer service phone number on their monthly statements, product information/warranty information, or websites. Other companies make you dig through multiple webpages to find their contact information.

So how do you reach a live person? Old standbys include repeatedly punching "0" [zero] or "0" plus "#". Consumer Reports suggests using websites such as DialaHuman.com and GetHuman.com that provide customer service phone numbers and techniques for reaching a live representative. Another similar site is ContactHelp.com.

Tips for Getting Better Customer Service

  • Gather Information.
  • Find the customer service number.
  • Be friendly and courteous.
  • When a representative can't help, ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Keep a record of contacts and what was said.
  • Post a plea on social media or write the CEO.
  • Make a complaint if not resolved satisfactorily.

3. Be Friendly and Courteous

Whether you are calling on the phone, using email, or communicating through live chat, remember to always be polite. The representative you've reached is not responsible for your problem; instead, he or she is the doorkeeper to getting your problem solved. You want that person on your side. Remember the name of the representative who answered the phone and be friendly. Pay compliments when you can. For instance, if you have been a long-time satisfied service or product user, say so.

Even if the situation is totally frustrating, showing anger, calling names, or making threats will typically alienate the representative you are talking to and significantly reduces the chance that your issue will be solved.

4. When a Representative Can't Help, Ask to Speak to a Supervisor.

When the solution you want appears to be beyond the authority of the representative, it's time to ask if someone else in customer service can help, perhaps a supervisor. In the customer service business, this is called "escalating" your call. Be courteous but firm when you make the request.

5. Keep a Record of Contacts and What Was Said

Keeping a record of all your customer service contacts related to a specific issue is important. Record who you talked to, the date, and what information or possible solution that representative offered. Having such a record can help you resolve the issue, particularly if you have to speak to multiple representatives or if you need to write a complaint.

6. Post a Plea on Social Media or Write the CEO

If you are unable to resolve your problem through a company's regular customer service process, you might try posting a plea for help on social media such as Twitter or Facebook. Many companies monitor their social media sites in order to maintain their positive image and to respond accordingly to consumer needs. Many consumers have reported a prompt response to their post. Writing the CEO of a company can also have quick results. Make your letter a polite but firm description of your complaint and lack of adequate customer service resolution.

7. Make a Complaint if You Don't Get a Satisfactory Resolution

Appropriate oversight government agencies provide a formal complaint process for consumers. For example, both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (www.cfpb.gov) and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) provide complaint registries. Most state consumer protection agencies also have a complaint process. You can also post a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau for a local service or retail company. Finally, there are review sites related to various types of services and businesses, such as travel, dining, and hospitality businesses.

For More Information

Customer Service Buying Guide from Consumer Reports

Resolving Consumer Problems articles from the Federal Trade Commission

 

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