Preemptively Praise Customer Service Reps And They Will Do Your Bidding

Before asking customer service representatives to tackle thorny issues, win them over by first offering to praise them at the end of the call. According to Psychology Today, the offer establishes a reciprocal relationship that CSRs will try to honor, even if solving your problem takes, ugh, work.

If you’ve ever contested a mysterious charge on your credit card, tried to resolve a problem with your computer, or wanted to return an item to a vendor, you’ve probably encountered stubborn customer service agents — people who seem nice at the outset but change their tune when they realize complying with your request will cause additional work on their part. To change their orientation toward you, try the following: If you find toward the beginning of your interaction that the customer service agent is being particularly friendly, polite, or responsive — perhaps before you get to your toughest request — tell the agent that you’re so impressed with his or her service and knowledge so far that you’re going to write a positive letter or e-mail about your interaction to his or her supervisor as soon as you get off the phone. After getting the agent’s name and the supervisor’s contact information, you can then get to the more complex issues at hand. (Or, even easier, you can tell the person that you’re so happy with the service that you’d like to be transferred to the agent’s supervisor when you’re done so that you can pay the person a compliment.) Although there are a number of psychological reasons for why this might be an effective strategy, the norm of reciprocity — one of the best-studied norms in psychology — is a powerful factor here: You’ve offered to do a favor for that person, so now that person is going to be motivated to return the favor. So long as you follow through with your promise, the strategy is an ethical and effective one.

More importantly, offering praise should put you in a good mood, and not being an ass is one of single best ways to solve problems.

Trouble with customer service agents? Try this. [Psychology Today via BoingBoing]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. mgy says:

    This is also a nice way of getting the name of a representative that has been particularly difficult. Just pretend like you’re satisfied!

  2. Abusiveelusive says:

    This may help. But just being nice and in a good mood helps any situation with a CSR. Praise or no praise.

  3. mike says:

    I like this! I would also like to recommend to folks that if someone has really helped them out, take the time to thank them and their supervisor.

    Too many people write to companies when they are upset. It’s rare for them to get a letter commending them.

    Every so often, I’ll get a few coupons just for writing.

  4. snoop-blog says:

    So the whole, “if you help me with this, I won’t come over there and kill you” is not a good technique? Damn!

  5. moralxdilemma says:

    “If you find toward the beginning of your interaction that the customer service agent is being particularly friendly, polite, or responsive”… Then this strategy is likely to be redundant.

  6. ogman says:

    How do you say, “You’re doing a really sweet job.” in Bangalore Babble?

  7. Sasselhoff says:

    I have to say, that as a person in sales–whether it be the corporate I used to be in or the non-profit I work for now–it is a pretty simple matter to “sell” the CSR. I don’t understand why people have such trouble with CSR’s.

    Sure, they are only making crap wages and don’t want to do their job, in addition to which, they are a thousand or more miles away and don’t give a crap about you. It’s all a matter of making them feel like helping you. It was the same principal with sales, I make them feel good so they buy my product or donate to my cause (or, at least the one I was currently working for!). I don’t want to ask them to donate money, I want to make them OFFER to give money.

    Finally, I always follow through with speaking to their superior to offer my “attaboy” to the CSR. If only to hear the incredulousness of the manager when someone is praising their work and not just screaming at them.

  8. Youthier says:

    When I worked as a CSR, I always liked when a caller started with “I know you can help me”. That charged me to prove them right and in the event that I personally couldn’t help them, to get them to the person who could.

  9. @linus: I do this when I get a tech or a sale person help me out. I swear they get as giddy as if I offered to buy 3 extended warranties.

  10. Etoiles says:

    How is it any secret that being good to customer service will get you more help than being a jackass?

    There were times, when I worked in retail (and in IT), where I would go completely out of my way and really push the boundaries of what I could do for a customer who was sweet, and polite, and genuinely meant that “thank you.” I would also be more inclined to help someone who started with, “Good morning, I really hope you can help me!” rather than someone who started with, “I want…”

    (I actually once had a little old lady ask me what I really wanted to do, and what my most pressing concerns were, so that she could pray for me when she went to a monastery that afternoon, after I had looked through three totes for a certain color of nail polish for her. I never did find the right shade of pink, but it’s now 11 years later and I still think fondly of her and wish her well. I remember how she treated me, when I know I’m about to ask a CSR for something difficult.)

  11. camille_javal says:

    On the rare occasion that I do start getting agitated because of getting screwed by the company in some way, but the CSR is doing their best to figure out how and why I’m getting screwed, I make a point of saying that I know this isn’t their doing and apologizing if I sound terse or frustrated. A lot of people are frustrated themselves with the companies they work for, but are going to get defensive both for the company and themselves if you appear to be blaming them. I had a CSR with Virgin America do a lot for me (not everything I needed, but that was because she didn’t have enough power, and her superiors refused to get on the line – she started sounded pretty frustrated) because I kept emphasizing that I knew *she* had nothing to do with this, and got her name and promised to praise her help when I contacted higher-ups about all the other BS (which I did).

    This woman must have been seriously overworked, too – when I called regular customer service about something else a couple days later, I recognized both her name and her voice (she had a distinct US regional accent) as the CSR.

    (and, yes, Virgin America was my worst experience with an airline ever)

  12. Triborough says:

    I would see how this would work if you and the CSR were actually speaking the same language.

  13. JoeVet says:

    “So long as you follow through with your promise, the strategy is an ethical and effective one.”

    So is it unethical to pretend to be nice so you get the service you paid for and deserve?

  14. @EtoilePB:

    How is it any secret that being good to customer service will get you more help than being a jackass?

    To some people, it is.

  15. mariospants says:

    What happens if the CSR is ultimately unable to assist you? I guess it means no reciprocation, huh?

  16. @JoeVet:

    So is it unethical to pretend to be nice so you get the service you paid for and deserve?

    I think that by pretending to be nice, you are, in effect, being nice. So there’s nothing wrong with that.

  17. darkrose says:

    Yeah, um..

    Wouldn’t work on me.

    Basically, if you don’t come off with a holier than thou attitude or demand that I do something (even my job), then you’ll probably get what you want and then some, as long as it’s in my power to grant it..however..

    if you sit there and insult me while you’re calling me for help, you tell me what it is you want me to do, or you generally act like an asshat, you MIGHT get the minimum level of help I am required to give you.

    /this is probably a good reason why I don’t CSR/phone monkey anymore.

  18. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    Good idea, and knowing some Bengali couldn’t hurt!

    Assalamu Alaikum! Tumi khub Bhalo! Aapni bhalo.

    Peace be upon you. You are very good. You are a good person

    Or, if they’re getting on your nerves, Amake Ragaiona (Don’t make me angry).

    Happy calling

  19. Grive says:

    I personally keep a simple maxim when dealing with CSRs, very similar to this:

    ** Remember that it’s not the CSR’s personal fault, and he isn’t some sort of einstenian genius. He’s a stressed out person (much like I’ll likely be) whose job is helping you out.**.

  20. coren says:

    Another reason it works, and this ma y be me being cynical, is that now you know their info, their supervisors info, and have communicated your willingness to follow up. Knowing someone has all that would encourage me to do better so my super didn’t get on my back

  21. ajlei says:

    I had a totally shitty run-in with Earthlink (just a couple days after Consumerist posted my billing issue with them) that lasted a week and involved several CSRs, many of whom were named “Mark”, and their runarounds, rudeness, and lack of knowledge. The very last call I made (the 6th or 7th), I reached one of the Marks, and he was the rudest of them all, started to raise his voice at me when I asked for clarification on his terminology (hello, “authentication of the server station line” means virtually nothing to me), and one who told me that the way my router had previously been set up was “impossible for any connection to work”, even though it had been working fine.

    Anyway, I asked to be transferred and I was sent to someone else named Mark, who was the polar opposite of the previous Mark. He was so helpful and took the time to explain what was going on in a concise and very not-rude manner. Once he finished, I said, “Mark, I just have to say that out of all the days I’ve been making all these calls, you have been the clearest and most sensible person I’ve spoken to.” It really seemed to perk him up, and it made me feel better too. Not to mention, all the idiots I’d spoken to were tier 3 support, and the last Mark was just level 1.

  22. kathyl says:

    As difficult as it is to put aside your frustration or anger with the company that has caused a problem for you, it really is true that being super nice to the customer service rep you are working with will, more often that not, lead you to a much better resolution.

    More flies with honey than vinegar, etc., you know.

  23. MyPetFly says:

    @TomCruisesTesticles:

    I’ll have to make note of those phrases…

    Humor always helps, too, assuming you’re speaking with someone with a good enough understanding of English (or your native language) to understand the humor. Otherwise it could backfire.

  24. GeoffinAround says:

    Practicing the lessons of humanistic psychology is never a bad idea.

  25. Zephyr7 says:

    Probably. But I probably hate insincerity too much to pull this off.

  26. Canino says:

    This also works in strip clubs.

  27. MyPetFly says:

    @Canino:

    That would redefine “customer service.”

  28. BoraBora says:

    What really helps is when I first call, I’m not put on hold for a long time and/or given the automated run-around. By the time I finally talk to someone, I’m agitated.

  29. Quilt says:

    My only problem with this is that I’d feel like a suck-up. Completely fake and insincere. My roommate was doing this with a Microsoft rep the other day and I wanted to punch him in the face. It was like he was farting out Care Bears or something, and they were doing the Care Bear Stare into the phone.

    I do stuff like this, but only when I think they’re actually doing a good job. I’m naturally very nice and pleasant to them anyways. It would make me feel dirty to start complimenting their every word and action.

  30. FrankenPC says:

    I just breath heavily and ask them what they are wearing.

  31. MyPetFly says:

    @Quilt:

    It would make me feel dirty to start complimenting their every word and action.

    That would probably be overdoing it, and they might pick up on it. I’d guess one or two well-placed compliments would be better.

  32. Nick says:

    I’m going to take this opportunity to do nothing else but bask in the fact that the author of the Psychology Today article (Noah Goldstein) is my good friend. That is all.

  33. MyPetFly says:

    @schwnj:

    And how do you feel about that…? ; )

  34. Triborough says:

    @TomCruisesTesticles: If the company you were calling actually cared about customer service, you could speak to them in English!

  35. deadspork says:

    @JoeVet: I was waiting for this one. Queue the “I deserve to be treated like King Emperor Majesty Awesome because I pay your company XX amount.”

    You deserve service, and good service. But you can’t be an arse and expect someone to be inclined to help you out, regardless of how much you’re paying the company. That’s simple human nature.

  36. @ogman:

    Thank you for ‘Doing the Needful’

  37. Jim Fletcher says:

    In none of the 6 call centers that I have previously worked in did any compliments to the supervisor actually count for anything. You’d get a silly little form letter congratulating you on a job well done and you *MIGHT* get put into a pool for some sort of monthly drawing, but it certainly didn’t stop you from getting your tail chewed on if your 14 minute 59 second break ran 15 minutes and 0 seconds and it was never actually taken into consideration at performance reviews.

    Things that WERE taken into consideration: Getting customers off the phone in < 180 seconds. Sales-per-call ratio.

    And keep in mind, this is inbound stuff like tech support for cell phone providers.

  38. dragonfire81 says:

    @mariospants: I have had instances where I have tried everything I can think of to assist to no avail and I honestly tell the customer I will have to them to someone else to solve the problem despite my efforts.

    I have also had many customers want to speak to my supervisor after that to commend my efforts.

  39. dragonfire81 says:

    Oh and my call center, our “good work” calls, known as “kudos” calls, were tracked and the agents that got the most of them got monthly prizes.

  40. TheUncleBob says:

    I deal with CSRs all the time in my own job. Here’s the biggest thing you can do straight from the outset to improve the tone of the call.

    When you call in and (eventually) the CSR answers and says “Hello, thank you for calling XXX, my name is YYY, how may I help you?” – Respond back with “Hello YYY, my name is ZZZ…” Remember their name through the conversation and call them by it. It’s just a simple courtesy that lets them know that you’re aware that they are a fellow human being.

  41. Tallanvor says:

    Are you kidding me? That type of patronizing attitude should be enough to piss any support person off! I know I’d probably tell you where you could shove it if you tried that kind of crap with me.

  42. This feels “icky” to me.

  43. samson says:

    I normally deal with the dregs of society so if a customer is even one bit normal I will go all out for them toget anything done. If a customer has a really annoying voice or a self-righteous attitude their problem always becomes worse. When I called my cell phone provider and used some bad words then three weeks later my cell phone was canceled. I had to call in on my other phone and get it reactivated. Basically the cell phone companies have so many customers they become a de-facto monopoly and I can see why the guy was offended. I am that kind of customer that shows above average loyalty and I wanted some of my overage refunded since I cant remember the last time I had a overage on my bill maybe 5 years ago. Well it seems our society now is a ” gotcha ” society now. Yes I borrowed gotcha from somewhere off the consumerist. Maybe society has already been that way and I have jumped the shark proffessionally.

  44. pax says:

    @linus: That’s true. I had a really great experience a couple of weeks ago at a Dunkin’ Donuts, so I sent the company an e-mail with the location of the store and the time of day and my compliments. A week later, I got a real, paper letter in the mail from DD with a gift card! Way to keep my loyalty, DD, I’ll be back for my zillionth iced caramel latte.

  45. The only thing you have to do with a CSR is *NOT* get pissy. That is it. They are treating you with respect(because they most likely have to), and you should show it back. In the off-chance that you get a CSR that is not treating you with respect then ask for a supervisor.

    I worked as a CSR for three years. I answered every call with the intent to help people out with their problems and complaints. When problems and complaints start turning into insults, directly at me, or even at the company I was with….well at that point I’d still have to be polite to the customer due to stupid quality assurance, but just know that I wasn’t going to do anything to really help them out. It goes against human nature to want to help someone who is attacking you.

    I never did anything bad with a customers personal information, but I know people who did. You think you should be polite to a waiter because he has a chance to spit in your food? Just be glad that waiter doesn’t have your social secuirty number, and all of your credit card numbers. Thank god I’m no longer with that company and in a non csr roll.

  46. neuman1812 says:

    Does this sound like anything else to anyone…Like A famous quote from a long time ago…someone said. Might be referred as some sort of rule…like the bronze rule..or silver rule? Sounds sooooo familiar I just dont know what it is….

  47. HogwartsAlum says:

    @TheUncleBob:

    I would love to turn the name thing back on someone. Last time I called AT&T for DSL support, I got someone who had obviously been trained to use my name to “personalize” the call. She used it after every third word. That drove me crazy. Next time I’m going to do it back.

    I’m evil. >:)

  48. bodah says:

    As someone that used to be a CSR, I always ask to speak with a Supervisor after the call, as long as I leave happy, that CSR will get praise from me.

    Our bonuses and raises were based heavily on customer praise. If you don’t piss me off, I will try to help you too.

  49. closed_account says:

    @linus- You occasionally get coupons because those companies aren’t reading your letters and they assume you are complaining about something. :)

  50. I’m trying to get an iPhone from Rogers, and so far, it has been a pain. This may come in handy…