"It's Policy" Were Fighting Words For Screwed Utility Customer

This success story on utility watchdog TURN’s site illustrates the power of developing an effective argument strategy before calling customer service.

In this case, when a customer called in to get a name change on her account, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) changed her rate plan to a more expensive one without telling her. A rep later told her that it’s “policy” to revert the account to the pricier, basic, rate any time an account change is made.

But by sticking to these three points…

1) PG&E should have disclosed their policy clearly to her before making the change on her account. By not disclosing their policy to her, they took away the choice she and all customers are entitled to.

2) Clearly state the specific resolution you are seeking. In this case, the resolution needed was for PG&E to put her back on E-6 rates and adjust her previous bills to reflect the rate schedule she had chosen.

3) Let the company know that you will file a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission if your complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction.

…she was able to get her account retroactively changed back to the cheaper rate. In resolving a dispute where the company has wronged you, a good run on customer service contains a logical argument, presented in sequence, that effectively articulates your position and the repercussions for not doing the right thing.

Stand up to your utility company- and WIN! [TURN.org]
(Photo: smcgee)

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  1. ekasbury says:

    Bang on perfect advice.

  2. KevinQ says:

    I recently had a past-due (way past due) utility bill sitting on my credit report that I needed to clear up. I’d put it off so long partly because I felt like all or part of the bill was not my fault. (I canceled the service [I thought] and moved, and they billed me for 10 months of service that nobody was using.)

    I figured that if I found the right person, and asked politely, I could get what I wanted. Sure enough, it took me a couple of representatives, but eventually I found “Greg,” who listed to my spiel, and saved me over $250. Know what you want, be polite, and be persistent, and you just might get what you’re looking for.

    K

  3. alfista says:

    Does the consumerist have ‘stickies?’

  4. JayDeEm says:

    @KevinQ: I had a nearly identical problem with Sprint. They continued to bill me for LD service on a line that no longer existed at an address where I no longer lived. Not only did I cancel the service, but the local carrier sent a disconnect order after they took over the LD service at the new location.

    Sprint continued to bill for services and send a bill to the old address. After about 6 months of billing me for a service they were not providing, they sent a bill to the new address for something around $300. All the customer service rep could come up with was “It’s not Sprints fault that it wasn’t disconnected.” … right. Long story short, I had to get the new provider (Cox) involved to get this fixed. Cox re-sent the disconnect notice to Sprint and the following month I received an updated statement from Sprint with a zero balance.

  5. Jerim says:

    Yes! We are getting somewhere here. Always, always, always be polite. No matter what. I can say that from the other side of the phone, the minute any person gets an angry customer screaming at them, the defenses go up. Customer may be in the right. Customer may be being reasonable. But simply by yelling or arguing instead of starting out soft, you guarantee yourself that you won’t get what you want. Is it fair? Maybe not. But do you really expect anyone to take your crap, even if you are in the right? That is still a human being on the other side of the phone, and just like any human, they are not going to take crap off a total stranger. Even if you think it is their job; it isn’t their job to take your attitude and yelling. Threatening to report someone or sue them is just a bullying threat. If you want to do that, then just do it. Don’t use it as leverage.

  6. XTC46 says:

    yes, be nice, always be nice. So many customer feel they are entitled and have “the customer is always right” embedded in their mind (when it isn’t true) that they just come off as rude and demanding. A person being nice to me on the phone, will get my assistance, a person who comes on demanding, threatening and yelling, will have me pulling the “sorry…it’s policy” card the first chance I get. I’ve bent, broken, and completely obliterated “policies” for customers who were nice, and calm, but for that guy screaming at me who says the phrase “so what are you going to do for me?!” I stop trying to help and move into “get this guy off my phone” mode.

  7. FLConsumer says:

    Not sure what the CPUC is like, but the Florida equivalent is securely in the pocket of the telecoms & power cos. They’re about as useful as tits on a bull.