I worked for Mercedes Benz’ excellent customer service program during my undergrad. It was a fun job with great colleagues and I learned a lot from it. I derive massive lifehack value from these times until today, because it is actually quite easy to make customer service work for you (not the people, but the institution of it). Here’s how:
- Always be nice. This is the most important step – never get ugly with the rep you are talking to, he is the only one who can help you at the moment. Not only do I owe this to my colleagues – it also really works. When you are on the phone or email for all day, you can really determine if someone was ripped off or hurt or if he’s just trying to make a buck off you.
- Tell your story. If you have a genuine problem, explain it nicely and quickly and try to find a solution with the customer service representative. Don’t rant and ramble, just tell what happened and explain why it’s bad.
- Try to find out what works and what doesn’t before you call. This is important to get through the loops – if you know some of the goodwill solutions (they are usually policies, especially if you are dealing with a large corporation, your case is not the only one), it is easier. Suggest them to your rep and be open about knowing them.
- Be reasonable. If you are a halfway decent person, you know what flies and what doesn’t. If your problem is real, you should be helped, if you are trying to replace your one year old TV for the next model because you are pissed there’s a new one – get out. Seriously, it is easy to get hung up on these things, and you will make more than one persons’ day miserable if you do.
- If being treated rude, escalate. Take it to the higher ups, because people should be helping you. If you are nice in turn, you can also quickly get a grumpy rep to sympathise with you, so always try the nice route first – it’s quicker, less troublesome and decent to do.
- Never threaten. Don’t say “I’m such and such – you will hear from my lawyer/popular friends/blog/etc.” – you will get people working against you, because you are clearly trying an “unfair advantage” they feel is unnecessary. Always remember, customer service is an absolute people’s game.
- If you aren’t heard and you should be (of course – this is everybody) – just write a letter to the CEO. Yes, a real letter helps, and there is often a separate CSR team for letters being sent to the CEO – they have special budgets, shortcuts, and superpowers. If you treat them badly, however, you will land on the sh#tlist forever, so don’t push it.
These are all very normal suggestions, but they usually get you somewhere. If not, be creative and try alternative rules:
- Try new outlets and routes. When I had a (really stupid) problem with T-Mobile UK, i tweeted about it and got a response within a couple of minutes. After a bunch of unmotivated call center dudes that spoke in unintelligible accents (everything from indian to welsh and scottish), I received a pleasant phone call. It didn’t help my problem, but it was better than before. These special routes (and Twitter is usually a special route for companies) are less crowded and new – so the people working on them do their best.
- Play with their system. Today, i received the following message after buying a boxed (!) version of a popular office program: “A number of non-functioning product keys were released to manufacturing”. No further information, no contact number, nothing (for UK or Germany). So, I called the free US number via skype and got my new product keys in no time – the rep was really sympathetic and wanted to help me. He knew I cheated the system, but he also knew that his company had screwed up, so we were both ok.
The essence is that the CSRs usually know your situation and understand your frustration. They are being screamed at by hysterical people for a better part of the day, so having someone decent to talk to is usually already a welcome change. Be nice and get help.
Oh, also use those gethuman numbers – they really reduce frustration. If stuck with a robot, just hit zero a couple of times, always works.