Reader Lona says that people in her family have called her a consumer advocate since she was sixteen, and now she is going to share with us 2,177 words on the customer service tactics and techniques she uses to get satisfaction. She writes, “in 99% of situations, it allows you to reach an agreeable solution to almost any problem. It is something I do for family and friends, and for myself.” Some of her methods have been mentioned in various ways on the site before but others are completely unique. And by the time you read her true success story at the end, you’ll swear she has Jedi mind-control over customer service reps. It boils down to, without raising your voice, asserting control over the conversation from the beginning and then never relinquishing that power.
“Keep in mind, please, that these rules require that you keep a calm, even head, or at least the appearance and sound of one, and you must have the audacity not to ASK for anything. You will be rude, and you will seem to have entitlement issues. But you will get the job done.
Here are the basic guidelines. The longer and more often you end up doing this, you will find yourself using your own language and tricks. Eventually, you will be able to determine within a few seconds whether the person you have on the phone is the correct person to speak to.
If all of this fails and you happen to be female, try asking a male relative or friend to do it, following the same steps. It sounds wrong, but people respond to voices, and in today’s society, a male voice will sometimes go farther. I am female, however, and if you have a strong enough tone and voice, in most cases, you won’t need to resort to that.
1. Always maintain a calm, collected tone
Keep your voice even, keep your tone low, and do not lose your temper. If you find yourself getting upset, place the person on hold for a moment, take a slow, deep breath, and pick the phone back up. If they have hung up on you, mention it when you call back.
2 . Before you call, outline the situation for yourself, and decide how you want it solved
Write down several options you would be willing to accept, and keep the page in front of you when you call.
3. Always get the name of the person who answered the phone, even if you speak to them for only a moment
Write the name down, as well as any other person you connect to. Keep notes of who said what.
4. When you get a CSR on the phone, immediately ask to speak to a supervisor
When/if they insist that they can help you, keeping your tone low and even, state again that you need to speak to a supervisor. Not want, need. If they again insist, state in a clear and calm, low tone, that they WILL connect you to a supervisor, now. Do not yell, shout, or raise your voice or tone. “No. You are going to get a supervisor for me. Thank you. I’ll wait.” Say “thank you” immediately. Do not wait for them to answer your request first. If they again insist, hang up immediately. Call back. If you get the same person, make the request again, and if they again refuse, hang up, wait one hour for a shift change, and then call back. Do not give the initial person your name. They do not need it.
5. Once you are connected with a supervisor, introduce yourself, and then inform the person that you have a situation that they are going to fix
Do not say “that you need to fix” or “that I want fixed” or “that I need fixed.” You know they will fix it. “I have a situation that you are going to fix for me today. I appreciate your patience.” If they say they will try, state again that you’re sure they will fix it for you. “No, you’ll fix it. Don’t worry.” Reassure THEM. It will confuse them enough that they will allow you to explain your situation.
6. Explain your situation in a calm, even tone. Do not pause for them to respond until the entire situation/story has been told
Simply tell it as if you are dictating a letter. Once the entire situation has been explained, do not pause. Immediately give them the first option of how it should be fixed, in a simple, declarative sentence. “…this is the situation as it stands at this moment, and the reason I am calling. So what you will be doing for me today is…” or “..so what we need to do today is…”
7. If the supervisor insists that your solution is outside of policy, ask for the full policy
Do not accept “It’s just not policy to do this.” You want a full description of the policy. This does not mean twenty pages, faxed. A simple description of the section they feel affects your situation is what you need from them. IF they again simply say “It isn’t policy to __”, you say “That isn’t a policy. What, exactly, is your policy in this situation?” If they refuse to give you the policy, ask for their supervisor, or a corporate number – if you choose to or must call corporate, refer to *A – however, this will most likely not be necessary. If they give you the policy, continue to step 8.
8. Listen carefully to the policy, then scan your list for solutions that fall within it
If none of your solutions fall within their policy, inform them of your viable choices, and ask them how they are going to solve your problem. Do not ask if they will. Ask how. “So, how are we going to resolve this issue?” not “Isn’t there anything you can do?” or “there must be something you can do.” There is always something they can do. Do not ask. It is fact. If they inform you that there is nothing they can do, again ask for their supervisor or a corporate number.
9. At this point the person should be working with you for a solution. Continue to keep a calm tone until you reach an acceptable solution
Be sure to refer to the person by name at least twice, to make sure they know you remember it. If they say they will call back, ask for their direct line. If they do not have one, again ask for their supervisor or a corporate number.
10. You SHOULD now have a solution
Write down the details, making sure to read it back to the person on the other end of the line, and make sure to repeat their name, as well as writing it next to the solution that has been reached. If it is not an immediately solvable problem (returns, or delivery, etc) get a time estimate. “And this will be here by….”. You can, at this point as well, ask for a direct line, in case you have issues and need to speak to them again. Then thank them for their time and hang up.
11. If longer than the specified time goes past and the solution has not gone into effect, call the same number and ask for the person by name
If this person is unavailable or does not exist (there is always the chance) go back through your notes and ask for the person you spoke to immediately previous. Throughout this conversation remember to keep your tone calm and even. If the person you spoke to is unreachable, again, ask for a supervisor, and then immediately ask that supervisor for a corporate number. If the supervisor offers to help you, you may either attempt to work with this person, or simply call corporate.
*A – Calling Corporate
12. Keep your tone even. Introduce yourself immediately and ask to speak to a person who can solve your problem
Use those words. “Hello, my name is ___. I have an issue. Please connect me to someone who can solve it today.”
13. When you are connected, introduce yourself again. Repeat step 6
More than likely, the person you are speaking to will either do what you’ve suggested, or will offer an alternative. At this point, if you continue to follow these basic guides, you should reach a solution fairly quickly. Remember to continue to escalate until you reach someone who will solve your problem.
This works even if the problem is not your own. This works even if the problem is not your own, and you are dealing with the infamous Best Buy. I have a success story to share now.
Currently living with me is my sister-in-law. She moved from Texas. A year or so before she moved to California, there was an issue with her computer. Her parents are fairly computer illiterate, but had purchased the PC as a gift for her, and therefore did it on their own. They purchased a floor model, and were not informed, and did not know to ask, that the OS disk was not included. They were not informed that they would need to make a boot disk themselves, and neither was my sister.
Six months later, my sister’s computer ran out of space, and she followed the on-screen instructions to free some up, running Disk Cleanup. Disk Cleanup removed essential files from the OS, causing the computer to brick. A full re-install was necessary. She called Best Buy and they told her it would cost over $100 to reload the computer. She called me in a panic, as she and her parents were living off her father’s Army pension at the time and could not afford the fee.
I called the Best Buy store’s direct number, and asked to speak to a manager. I was told none was there. I waited one hour, and called back. This time I got Jose. I introduced myself and let him know that I was calling on behalf of a friend that was having an issue, and thanked him for solving it for me today. I then explained to him that my friend had been given a computer without an OS disk, and now needed to reload the computer, but had been told it would cost quite a bit of money. He informed me that she was told when the computer was purchased that she needed to create a boot disk. I informed him that she was not, and that he would need to reload the computer without charge. He said he could not do that. I calmly pointed out that it is very bad policy to charge a customer for something he should never have done in the first place, and that the operating system was sold with the computer, and since the disk was not included, we basically had two options available to us – he could either issue her a free copy of Windows XP, or reload the computer free of charge. I asked him which solution he felt would be best for her. He told me that they could do neither, and I asked him how he would be solving it. He asked me to hold for a moment, then came back on the line, and told me to have her come in, and he would take care of it.
I called my sister and gave her Jose’s name and told her to ask for him directly once in the store, because he would be taking care of her problem. She and her mother went, and he met them. Again, they were informed that it would cost to reload the computer. The exact charge came to $97.53 with taxes. In a panic, my sister called me, and I told her that he was not going to charge her. She said he was. I asked her to put him on the phone.
Here’s the clincher – when faced with having to speak to me again, he quickly changed his mind and offered an acceptable solution to the problem: he would issue them a gift card for the exact amount, and they would use that to pay for the service. We all agreed to the terms, and he came back exactly two minutes later with a gift card for the exact charge, and handed it to the cashier.
At no point did I yell, or in any way raise my voice. I did not threaten him, or mention lawyers or the business bureau. I simply informed him of what he would be doing, and he did it. While it took a bit of reinforcement, eventually he did come up with a solution that was both within his policy, and right by the consumer. This is not a ‘talent’, it is a skill, and by following these steps you can usually avoid the horrific experiences many consumers have.
Not to mention gain a wonderful story. My sister tells it to anyone we meet who is having consumer issues similar to hers.
I hope this helps at least one person. You will really be amazed just how effective these methods can be.