9 Ways to Get Exactly What You Want From Customer Service

by Paul Michael on 23 December 2013 (4 comments)

I’m a fan of companies that goes the extra mile for their customers. Unfortunately, not all companies offer the greatest customer service. Most of us have had a frustrating customer service experience at some point – but it doesn't have to be that way. If you follow these suggestions, you can get exactly what you want from customer service – and even have fun doing it.

Before You Do Anything Else, Bypass the Automated Phone System

If you’re calling customer service, the biggest problem you’ll face with problem resolution is robots; you can't be friendly to a phone system (well, you can, but it probably won't be all that friendly back). The best way to do this is to tap into the GetHuman database. Look up the company you’re dealing with, and the website will tell you the quickest way to speak to a real person. ContactHelp is also a great option.

Now, here are nine ways to help get what you want every time you talk to a customer service representative (CSR).

1. Treat Your CSR Like a Friend

Look at it this way – these people spend 95% of their time dealing with customers who are upset. So give them a break – be nice. Ask them their name and how they’re doing. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the mood lightens when you initiate a friendly conversation. Where are they in the country? What’s the weather like? Did they see that nail biter football game? If it’s the holiday season, are they looking forward to the New Year?

Get a conversation going, and get them smiling and laughing. Make sure you reciprocate, and be genuine. The CSR is now dealing with someone they like, not someone they want to get rid of. And when CSRs deal with people the like, they treat them well.

2. Say “We” as Much as Possible

My dad used to have a saying, and I still use it: “’I want’ never gets.” You want the CSR to think of himself as part of your team. So, don’t say “I,” say “we.”

“Hey John, how are we going to get this resolved today?” brings the CSR on your side. They’re now working with you, rooting for you to succeed. On the other hand, “How am I going to get this solved?” is your problem. It’s a tiny change in tone, but it works wonders.

3. Get Them Saying Yes, Yes, Yes

By asking questions that can only be answered “yes,” you get the CSR in a pattern of agreement. “So, this is the deal I have right now? And you say I’ve been with you for six years? And I am considered a loyal customer?” Yes. Yes. Yes. Then you slip in something that you want them to say yes to. “And is there something you can do for me, today, because I’m a valued customer?” That’s a really tough one to say no to.

4. Ask Them for Their Opinion

The CSR knows way more about your options than you do – which means that they might know of a way to help you that you weren't aware of. Explain the situation, and then say “What would you do in my position?” Now they’re thinking about this from your perspective, but with their incredible knowledge of the system. I have used this several times, most recently when I was about to be charged $125 by an airline for an overweight bag. I said “Oh wow, that’s just something I didn’t budget for; what would you do in my position?” After a few seconds, I was charged for two bags instead of one overweight bag, saving me $100.

5. Be 100% Prepared

Information such as when you ordered, when the product arrived, when you made a return, and when you previously spoke to customer service can all be helpful. Make sure you have all this information before contacting customer service. Oh, and you know how they always give you those reference numbers at the end of a call? Actually write them down.

Also, it can help to read up on the company's policies. I know I said in the previous point that the CSR probably knows more than you – but they might not know everything. If you come across any parts of the policy that might be helpful to you, have them handy.

6. Call at the Best Time

Customer service software maker ZenDesk did a study of the best time to call customer service and discovered that people who call between 9 and 11 am generally have their issues dealt with the fastest. It makes sense – when you call in the morning, you're dealing with CSRs who are just starting their day and have a clean slate. And the “call” part is also key – ZenDesk reported that using the phone gets much faster results than email or social media.

7. If You Need to, Take Things Up a Level

If you aren't getting anywhere, try going further up the chain of command. This could mean asking nicely to speak to a supervisor, or you could use what's often called “Executive Customer Service.” Utilizing this usually takes you to people who have a lot of power within the company you have an issue with. Google it for the company you want to contact, and you should find the name, phone number, and/or email address of someone who might have more power to assist you.

8. Mention You Might Take Your Business Elsewhere

The old saying is true – it is much cheaper for a company to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. If you’ve exhausted all options, consider telling your CSR that you might take your business elsewhere. Your CSR will go into “save sale” mode. You will probably be transferred to a department called retention that has the skills and power to keep you. They will offer you options the regular CSR cannot.

9. Always Reward Good Behavior

If you have a great customer service experience, always take the time to let the company know. Fill out surveys if you receive them, or take the time to write a short email to the company (and make sure to include the call reference number so they know which representative helped you). The more you reward good behavior, the more likely it is that customer service centers will be staffed with helpful people. And who knows – maybe you'll even help the CSR get a raise or bonus. Isn't it nice to help people who help you?

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Guest's picture
Steven Le

After having worked in customer services for a few years I can tell you that this is excellent advice! This is everything people need to know when dealing with CSR's to get the best results. A little bit of friendless and conversations help a lot as the CSR is much more willing to help you now.

Very good advice!

Guest's picture

I always try to be kind and courteous at the start. If things turn sour (an unsatisfactory result or response to my problem) I will try to be more firm, though still polite. Sometimes I have to get to the point of asking for management, and if that still doesn't help, then I take to social media- that always gets a response, but it's a last resort.

Guest's picture

Customer service certainly depends on both the customer and the CSR. It's awesome that point 1 mentioned the different perspectives! Sometimes, all it really takes to be satisfied as a customer is to be kind to the CSR. Perhaps such actions on the customer's part would help future customers receive excellent service. I'd also like to point out point 9 about filling in a survey. – It really does help give back to person who had helped you! Sometimes, even the simplest of gestures go a long way. I've recently written about what had seemed like a simple gesture on the CSR's part, but was actually quite memorable on my part. Feel free to check it out! http://goo.gl/w0CJpq.

Guest's picture

As someone who works in a phone center most of this is terrible advice. Do NOT bypass the phone tree because that's how you get to the wrong section so we are forced to transfer you into yet another queue.

Yes, be polite, but stop wasting our time with small talk. We get millions of calls asking about the weather, asking how we are when we would rather be anywhere else and are forced to lie about it, making stupid jokes that we have to pretend are funny, etc. No. Stop. Get to the point so we can fix the problem and move on. How would you well having to talk about the weather a hundred times a day?

And stop asking how "we" can fix the problem. Your problem is not mine. I want to help but this makes you sound fake. We can see right through it.

Asking a bunch of "yes" questions wastes our time and makes you look increasingly stupid with every question. You look like you don't have basic reasoning skills and like you are unprepared. It does not influence the things we are trained to say no for.

We also don't care if you take your business elsewhere. If you're a difficult or entitled customer we are happy to be rid of you.

Ask your question within fifteen seconds, elaborate if asked, listen to the answer, ask for alternatives if necessary, hang up. We like those customers.