We’ve all been plagued by horrible customer service experiences — some of us may even avoid calling a company’s customer service number when we have a problem because our past experiences have been so awful. What’s worse than being left on hold for hours or transferred around only to be disconnected in the end? Trouble is, if you don’t put in the time, you could be missing out on extra cash in your pocket. Sometimes a lot of extra cash.
The good news is that today, companies are working harder to retain customers and may be willing to cough up some cash (or credit, or airline points, or other valuable benefits) for interrupted or canceled services, mistakes on billing, or a bad customer experience. So, instead of getting mad and hanging up, try these six approaches. You just might walk away a winner.
1) Do A Little Homework
Avoid the runaround by doing some research ahead of time. You may not even have to pick up the phone. Many companies have a self-service option on their website where you can start an online return, engage in an online chat with a customer service rep, or send an email detailing your situation, says Shep Hyken, customer service expert and author of Amaze Every Customer Every Time. You may get a resolution by going that route, but if not, use your time on the company website to find the exact number you should call. Some companies have multiple phone options, and the right one for you can vary depending on your area of the country, or the specific thing that you’re calling about. Finding the best one from the get-go can help prevent the dreaded transferring from one department to the next, and having to explain your problem to multiple people.
2) Be Nice
It may sound simple, but it’s surprisingly effective. Hyken explains, “Start off on a friendly note. Introduce yourself, and find out who you are talking to. Customer service reps have been trained to use your name — we, as customers, have to get trained to use their name.” Most customer service reps are on the phone all day, and very few people take the time to hear their name, and ask how they are doing. If you’re not good with names, jot theirs down on a sticky note in front of you so you can thank them by name. Taking a moment to connect on that level can make the rep feel good, and inspire them to go the extra mile to get your case resolved.
3) Manage Your Expectations
Ask yourself what you’re really after. The key here is a reasonable resolution to your problem — emphasis on the word reasonable. You’re not going to get free cable for a year for just because your technician missed his appointment, but you might get a discount on your next bill. Brian J. O’Connor, author of The $1,000 Challenge, advises customers to ask for alternative money-saving solutions if you aren’t able to get a direct refund. For example, when dealing with an airline he says, “If you had a bad experience on a flight and they are unwilling to refund you, you may be able to ask for courtesy miles to be used on a future ticket.”
4) It Never Hurts To Ask
We’ve all been lured in by introductory offers and promotional rates that some companies offer, but after a year or two they expire, leaving you with a more expensive bill. While many people may think that automatic price increase is inevitable, it’s worth your time to negotiate. Call customer service and ask if there’s anything they can do to reduce your bill back down to the promotional rate. You may have to ask for someone in the company’s loyalty or customer retention department. “They will do anything in their power to keep you,” Hyken says, adding that it never hurts to compliment the company and tell them you’d like to stay with them. If that doesn’t work, you can try telling the rep that you’d like to cancel your service if they can’t work with you on price. “Companies should work as hard or harder to keep their current customers as they do to convert new ones,” Hyken says.
5) Know When And How To Escalate
Once you’ve spent time on the phone with a rep, established a rapport, and kindly asked for a reasonable resolution, if you haven’t gotten results, it’s time to escalate. First, ask your rep if you can speak with their supervisor, and see if you can make headway with someone who may have more authority to make decisions. If you’re still unsatisfied after speaking with them, O’Connor suggests contacting Executive Customer Service — this is a department that many companies have, usually reserved for larger corporate clients. If your customer service rep can’t transfer you, you can usually find the number for this department on the company’s website. When you call, ask for the Office of the President. No, you will not be speaking with the President, but you will likely be transferred to a group of customer service experts whose job is to serve as gatekeepers for the President, and they will try to help you resolve your issue so that it doesn’t go any further. Social media can also be an option. While you may be tempted to fire off a nasty tweet, Hyken advises against that negative approach. “A better route is to use the Direct Message option and wait for the company to follow up,” he says.
6) A Simple Thank You Goes A Long Way
If you’re happy with the resolution reached and the service you received, show your appreciation. Thank the rep personally for their help, and ask if you can follow up with an email to their supervisor letting them know what great service you received. Very few customer service reps are complimented on their work, and something like this can really make their day, and help ensure they are appreciated in their jobs. This is also an opportunity to develop a relationship. If the rep works for a company where you frequently do business and may have to call again, you can ask them for their direct line. It may be the beginning of a beautiful (and profitable) friendship.
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