Techniques To Win Disputes With Customer Service Reps

Losing your cool and taking business transactions personally are excellent ways to turn customer service representatives against you, making sure you’ll have a tough time getting your way. You’ll need to play it cool to give yourself your best shot at success.

Speaking to the author of customer service negotiating book What’s Your Problem?, Alpha Consumer reveals methods that help customers get their way:

* Be willing to take your business away. This doesn’t always apply, but in a competitive industry, businesses are foolish to drive you away by denying a reasonable demand.

* Don’t let one CSR shut the door in your face. If your negotiation with one rep on the phone isn’t going well, you can ask to speak to a superior or just say goodbye, call the company again and hope you connect with someone more reasonable.

* Don’t give up. If you know you’re right and have enough willpower to continue your quest for consumer justice, there’s no reason to give up. Remain calm, stick to the facts, and continue working your way up the ladder until you find someone with the authority to set things right.

How to Solve Any Customer Service Challenge [Alpha Consumer]

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  1. John says:

    Always remember that CSRs will note your file. You hang up and call back, the next CSR will know exactly what the prior CSR felt should be noted, and maybe even that you hung up and called back.

    My strategy is always to *67 and bypass entering account information. If someone with a heavy accent, or a guy, answers; I try again. If I can get a female with a southern accent, then she gets the account info :)

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Based on my experience having to call in multiple times over the same issue and encountering reps who have “no history” of my previous calls or aggreements, I call bullshit on this as a broad practice.

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

        My experience is just the opposite – they usually seem to have my call history.

        Obviously your mileage may vary.

      • TomClements says:

        When you call ask for and write down the Date, CSR Name, Location and Employee ID, notes of discussion. If you need to make future calls having this information can combat the “we have no previous record…”. As well as show that you are vested in getting to a solution.

    • FreshPorcupineSalad says:

      I usually have better customer service experiences with younger males than anyone else.

    • George4478 says:

      When I call back on a dispute the first words I hear almost every time is “Hmmmm. There’s no record of that in your account.”

      I WISH they would make notes. My longest dispute (with HP) resulted in a half-dozen different CSRs, meaning I explained the same thing for each one since there were never any notes.

    • Snowblind says:

      So you don’t want to say “you suck, I am hanging up”.

      You say something like. “Ok, I have good info here, but I am out of time. I will call back when I have more time.”

      Always sound reasonable, even if they are not.

    • Skyhawk says:

      Maybe in theory.
      But if your assertion is correct, why do you need to repeat all of your security information and re-tell the entire story each time you speak to a new one?

  2. MDSasquatch says:

    TRUE STORY – I added a phone to my existing Comcast service and my next bill had a $30 charge for a connection fee. I called their 800 number, spoke to one person and in less than 5 minutes, had the fee removed.

    I know my story seems more like an urban legend; but it really happened.

    • Cat says:

      Like I’m going to believe an urban legend from Sasquatch.

    • belsonc says:

      “Dear Consumerist Letters:

      I know this sounds crazy, but…”

    • tbax929 says:

      That happened to me when I switched from Sprint to Verizon for my cell service. They charged me activation fees on both of my lines, when I’d never agreed to any such fee. I called and had the erroneous fees removed within a couple of minutes.

  3. Torchwood says:

    Both golden rules, some kindness, please, and thank you go a long way. Remember, the CSRs don’t make the policy, they just have to enforce it.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      This. I try never to take out my anger or frustration on the CSR on the other end of the line or standing in front of me; 99.99% of the time, they didn’t cause the problem and do not deserve to be abused. If I can’t get a satisfactory resolution from them, I calmly and politely ask for the issue to be escalated.

    • Sudonum says:

      This, I always tell them that I realize it’s not them, it their companies policy. I then try to point out how absurd the policy seems from my standpoint. If they have any wiggle room at that point they’ll usually give it to me, or sometimes even offer to transfer me to their supervisor.

    • sybann says:

      marry me

  4. crispyduck13 says:

    If I’m speaking rationaly and don’t get the answers I need from a CSR or if I can’t understand their english I just escalate to ‘supervisor’, gets me results 99% of the time.

    Although I have to say since Citi switched their credit card call centers back to the U.S. I have to escalate much less often.

  5. CreditSense-CreditRecovery says:

    As the lead negotiator for several law firms, I have spent the last two years dealing with bank representatives on every level. Hanging up and calling back is one of the best tips ever. Remember though, if you lose your cool they will likely put a note in your “permanent” file and you could possibly be forever tagged as a hostile nuisance.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      LOL, I definitely think this is true. I’ve noticed that the CSR’s at the one place where I got into it with someone always talk to me like I’m an asshole, even if I’ve been super nice.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        In my office, we all know the problem customer’s store names and contact names by heart. There’s a select few that act like jackasses no matter what the call is about. I avoid them like the plague.

        • Rachacha says:

          While I never worked as a CSR, I did work in business to business services. There were a few clients that always balked about pricing and demanded a discount, even though every time they requested a quote for the same service we gave him the same standard pricing. We began to just add a 10-15% fee to our base price (we internally named this fee after him) and sent out the quote with the inflated prices. When he called his sales rep, she would “discount” the pricing to our standard pricing which made them happy.

          Another client complained about everything, the toilet paper in the restroom was too rough, the free lunch that we gave him arrived late etc. None of these issues impacted the professional service that we were providing to him and we eventually “Fired” him as his complaints were counterproductive and did nothing to build our business partnership. We told him in a professional, but direct way that based on the complaints he was making that perhaps we could not provide the type of service he was looking for and encouraged him to seek out our competition. He was highly insulted and did leave for the competition, but came back after realizing that the competition’s “Best” was 1000 times worse than our “worst”. He came back with a better attitude.

  6. tinyninja says:

    There’s no winning here. Any CSR that has pulls up your personal account is adding notes to it. There are two ways they can screw you over if they so choose–they can deliberately fail to note the solution that they offered you, or they can put in the notes that you got abusive.

    I saw this over and over when I worked for a collections agency that did pre-collections for one of the cellular companies. I’d talk to the customer, go into the CSR notes (I had access because I was back office–the collections agents didn’t have access) and find that the customer was most likely telling the truth, it just wasn’t noted. And of course I had no power to say “hey, let’s help this person repair their credit”, which is why I’m not there anymore. If the person was getting abusive with me, that was generally reflected in the notes as well, and I didn’t want to help them out either. Go figure.

    And most big companies don’t actually care that you are taking your business elsewhere, because at that very moment other people are switching over to *them* because of everybody elses poor customer service. Its called churn, and they do it deliberately. I believe the theory came out of one of the big MBA programs in the nineties. Consumerist would do well to look into it and make people more aware.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Yeah…saying “Well I’ll just take my business elsewhere” is the quickest way to shut down negotiations; management is like “Well…what are you waiting for?”

      Really the only time this doesn’t apply is when you’re dealing with a small business/mom & pop shop who actually still give a damn about staying in business and who NEED your business. :-D

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Its called churn, and they do it deliberately. I believe the theory came out of one of the big MBA programs in the nineties.

      If I remember right, that became a popular practice after Lee Iacocca’s book came out. One of his theories was to get rid of the bottom 10% every year. He was talking about internally, whether it meant getting rid of workers, products, or entire business units. That was translated pretty quickly to also mean customers, since those bottom ones cost you the most time and money in dealing with them. That was the end of the “customer is always right” mantra, when businesses realized that sometimes it’s just better to lose a costly customer and move on.

      • EightBits says:

        Getting rid of the “bottom 10%” every year – which is really silly. I undestand the line of thinking, but there is always going to be a bottom 10% regrdless of what it is. So a hard reinforcement of that ideaology is “only cutting of your nose to spite your face” and that very qualified 10% may come back to bite you.

  7. Vinia says:

    I have to disagree with the threatening to take your business elsewhere. After being talked down to so often most CS reps are only too happy to hear this threat because it means that they won’t have to deal with you again. Saying that you like doing business with this company and need to make it right will go much farther than threatening to take your ball and go home.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I think the more powerful threat is to say you will take your business to X, with X being their biggest competitor. This helped me immensely when I was negotiating with AT&T, losing business to Verizon is definitely a soft spot for them. This is why companies have ‘retention specialists’ or even whole departments.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      I have to agree. Threatening to take away your business should be your last-ditch effort, and it can’t be an idle threat. If you throw down that gauntlet and don’t follow through, you’re only going to weaken your position and seem like a blowhard. The only bigger error is stating up front that you’re never going to do business with them again regardless of the outcome. They know that they’ll never see a return on any goodwill gesture.

      You should also be succinct. What’s the problem, and how can they help to fix it? I find helps to jot down notes before I call. If it’s a product problem, when did I purchase it? What’s the serial number? What are the issues, and how often is it happening? Spending a few minutes writing that down helps to focus my thoughts and leads to a more productive call. Having that in front of me also helps if the call becomes unfocused. If you’re ill-prepared, it may lead to frustration on the part of the CSR.

      • Rachacha says:

        “They know that they’ll never see a return on any goodwill gesture” This is why a lot of companies will offer you a discount on a FUTURE purchase to apologize for a mistake that you acuse them of making. This gives them an opportunity to show you that they can do better if you try them again, but if you are fed up and go elsewhere, they are out nothing.

        This generally works well, except when the company is incompetent and they give you discounts every time they screw up. A long time ago, I purchased a new vehicle from a dealer. They gave me a coupon for several free oil changes. Their service department had a policy of 20 minute or less oil changes or the next one was free. Fortunately for me, they could never change my oil in under 20 minutes, so when it came time to pay the bill I would hand them a free oil change voucher and I would then mention that the oil change took longer than 20 minutes, so they would give me a new voucher…wash, rinse, repeat and I had a 3 years of free oil changes until they discontinued the 20 minutes or the next one is free promotion.

    • StarKillerX says:

      I think a lot depends on if it’a a single purchase or a recurrent one, for example DirecTV has a much higher stake in keeping you happy then say Sears is.

      DirecTV has guaranteed money from you are long as you don’t cancel, where Sear’s is promised nothing by making you happy this time, also let’s be honest, most people will bitch and moan about a store and then end up back buying something else a short time later

      For example how many stories here have we read that basically start out by say “X company screwed me over the last 6 times I was there, but I figured things would be different this time so I….. ?”

    • sirwired says:

      This.

      I do technical support for $1M+ installations of computer storage equipment; in 13 years, I’ve had precisely ONE customer actually return their equipment. One. Out of I don’t know how many hundreds of customers, about 20% of which threaten to “send the box back to the loading dock Next Friday if it’s not fixed.” (Curiously, it’s always “Next Friday”, no matter how long it’s been broken, no matter how long they’ve been trying to fix it, and no matter they made the same threat last week.)

      You are almost certainly bluffing, and both you and I know it.

    • EllenRose says:

      I got into a dustup with Wells Fargo, and noted to the representative that it’d solve the whole problem if I simply canceled my account and went elsewhere. And I halfway did that — took my money to a small local bank, and left a pittance in my Wells Fargo account. Wells Fargo has instant cash machines everywhere, and I’m essentially using them as a quick-access piggy bank. Best of both worlds for me.

    • manus manum lavat says:

      The actual point should be don’t threaten to do anything. Instead, if you are dissatisfied with the service you’re recieving, state calmly that you would like to cancel now, and be willing to go through with it. What usually happens, at least in terms of telecoms/cable companies, is that you get sent to a ‘save’ team who will work to get you what you want. Provided you have an actual goal (such as: reduce my bill by 10% or get a problem fixed which has been repeatedly reported, etc.), you should be able to get satisfaction this way. If you can’t get satisfaction, then actually cancel and move on.

  8. sir_eccles says:

    You need to empower the CSR to fix your problem.

  9. rlmiller007 says:

    Don’t forget somethiong that always gets overlooked. Call in the morning m-f starting about 6 am. Call centers usually work on some kind of shift bidding process. The more experienced reps work m-f 6-2:30. Sure you’ll find some knowledgable/helpful outside those hours but you have a higher percentage of getting one.

    • Snip says:

      Or Third and Fourth shifts. You would be surprised how popular those are. Especially the overnight.

      • Darkneuro says:

        Night differential… If the outsourcer I currently work for offered it for my client, I’d take it.

    • Snip says:

      And on that note, stay away from calling during Second shift. Nobody wants that shift because it cuts into any activity you might need or want to do. That’s why it always goes to the newbies.

  10. dragonfire81 says:

    “Be willing to take your business away. This doesn’t always apply, but in a competitive industry, businesses are foolish to drive you away by denying a reasonable demand.”

    CSRs at big companies often don’t give a shit about such a threat. The loss of business of one customer is pretty much inconsequential to a large corporation and the rep knows that even if you do leave the chances of them still having a job to go to next week are high.

    Speaking as a former CSR, most of the time we just tune this statement out. It will usually get you nowhere.

    • Sunflower1970 says:

      Yep. I’m a CSR and really, we’re the only game in town (I’m not gonna name my company, or industry), so threatening to take your business elsewhere is an empty threat. I usually tell the customer I’m unable to help them, but here’s the name and number of my supervisor who may be able to help you.

      But, if the customer is very courteous, tells me their problem, even if they’ve told it over and over, I’ll do everything in my power to help them, and in the end, I have multiple notes praising my service from customers who were very happy that I was able to actually take care of the problem. And it looks good on my yearly review, too.

      Best time to call is early in the morning. Less waiting time on the phone, and most of the CSR’s are fresh, and more willing to help than if one calls later in the day. By then, they’ve heard it all, and may not be as helpful as they could otherwise be.

      If we can, we do notate the file. But, all calls are recorded at my company, and we can have a supervisor pull calls to see what was going on with each call the customer made to the company.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think it really depends on the company.

      When I moved to a new state several years ago, Geico raised my insurance rates by about 30%. I had been with them for over a decade (never had a claim) and thought this was unreasonable, so I called and they assured me there was absolutely nothing they could do. So, then I began shopping around found a new policy and called Geico to cancel and explained why, and gave them one last chance to offer a better rate. Again, they said there was nothing they could do.

      So I canceled Geico and about an hour later, a retention specialist called back and offered to put me back at my old rates. At this point, I was very annoyed and simply declined the offer.

      I think the key to threatening to walk is being willing to actually follow through.

  11. r-nice says:

    I echo what others have said; a front line CSR isn’t going to care about going to another company. They probably hate their job anyway.

  12. zyphbear says:

    You also need to be careful about the situation as well.

    Yes, losing your cool is a big part of it, but so is using language that could be interpreted as offensive (derogatory words such as descriptions of people’s skin color, sexual orientation or body parts), as well as cursing in any form (some CSRs will give you a little leeway if you randomly utter a curse word when you realize something went wrong, but there is no reason to keep doing it.) Also don’t use the excuse “I’m not swearing AT you, I’m just swearing at the situation” when you continue to swear or use offensive language, they are being subjected to your bad behavior and have every right to not have to deal with it.

    Also, make sure you give them ALL of the information in a clear in concise manner, they are not physic and have no way of knowing all the details that went wrong if all they can see is your basic account info. They have no way of knowing that someone else made a payment on your account, they just see a payment was made. If you are concerned about making sure you give all the information, write (or type) a timeline of what happened with all the details so it can be presented in it’s entirety, not suddenly presenting more information to the second person or manager. That missing information you suddenly ONLY gave to the supervisor/manager is why the manager was able to help you, and if you gave it to the original rep, they might have been able to as well.

    Also, CSRs can tell when are you trying to get something that is not reasonable. If your service was out for a week and it was the provider’s fault, you could get a prorated credit, but don’t expect the whole month free or a free upgrade.

    Finally, Plan ahead!! I can’t say this enough! Both for the situation and the actual call:

    For the issue:
    Don’t wait to call to the last minute, keep an eye on your accounts. Call as soon as you see an issue. Suddenly your cell minutes are making a huge jump? Call right then and there. Your cable account has an unauthorized charge? Call as soon as you see it. You’re planning on moving and need to get power turned on in your new place? Call as soon as you know your move in date. The sooner you do it, the more likely you will be successful. If you wait until your due date to call, they have less wriggle room and you could get a late fee. Most companies require a day or two to complete a request.

    For the Call:
    Make sure you are calling from a quiet place that you don’t have a ton of noise, children in another room, the TV/Radio is off, etc. Prepare by having a Pen and Paper or a method of recording down information. Sometimes if you don’t write down a trouble ticket, you have nothing to go back to. Don’t call from your car while driving, if you are in your car sitting in a parking spot just because it’s quiet and have something to write with, that’s fine, otherwise, find a table and chair. Make sure you are able to speak to the CSR about the account, this sounds like it should be common sense, but so many people feel they can speak for anyone, but wouldn’t want that for their accounts. If the person can’t speak, make sure you have your Power of Attorney ready to be faxed to the company so they can verify the information.

    • Sunflower1970 says:

      I might also like to add to that regarding the call, please, don’t be exercising, don’t be in the bathroom (you wouldn’t believe how many times this one happens!), don’t be doing the dishes, don’t be in a drive-thru ordering for all the kids in the car, pay attention to the call that’s taking place. I may need to give you info to write down, and besides, I’m giving you my complete attention, please be courteous and do the same for me.

      • EllenRose says:

        There is much in what you say, but sometimes the CSR takes so long to answer the phone that you just put on the headset, clip the cordless phone to your belt, and go about your day. If they catch me doing the dishes, it’s still better for them — I won’t be fuming about the 45-minute wait.

        • hoi-polloi says:

          That’s entirely reasonable, but it’s something else entirely if you keep washing the dishes while you’re on speaker phone. I might play a video game, read a book, or do something else to occupy my time while I’m on hold. I make sure it’s something that is easily interrupted, and I stop and give the person my full attention.

  13. tmc131414 says:

    The worst customer service experience I had was with HP. I found that a laptop I just purchased was having a technical issue which caused the dedicated graphics card (that I paid extra for on my customized PC) to not work. I found online that this was a widespread issue that dozens of other users who had purchased the same model laptop in the past month or so had written about on online forums.

    I decided to try to contact HP and see if I could get them to give me some kind of credit for the cost of the extra graphics card since the computer worked perfectly fine other than that and the company had not made any announcement as to when they would fix the problem. I found that my call was quickly transferred to a “specialist” in Russia who insisted that there was no problem at all according their “engineers” and that I should just return the computer. I mentioned how the forums where these other complaints were posted were on the HP website and that the official moderators from HP had acknowledged the issue and insisted that they were working to solve the problem (though with no idea how many weeks or months it might take). She claimed this was only hearsay and was very insistent on me simply returning the laptop. She said this was the only thing I could do to supposedly solve the issue and that I only had a few days before I wouldn’t even be able to return the product under their return policy. This was the last thing I wanted to do since a similar model would’ve cost me around $300 more and did not have as good a graphics card available.Less than a day later, HP would end making an official announcement on their website that they were working on a solution to this issue.

    After being made to look like I was crazy by HP customer service, I ended up taking my complaint to the Better Business Bureau. I told them how the customer service department had completely denied the problem despite the dozens of complaints on their own website and acknowledgement of the issue by their own employees on various forums. At first, HP responded by continuing to deny the problem and insisting that their customer service representative was right in trying to get me to return the laptop while refusing to admit any technical issue existed. I responded by a submitting a rebuttal that included copies of the various complaints other customers had posted on their website (which were exactly the same as the issues I was having) as well as the official statements that had been posted on their website that acknowledged the problem and stated they were working on a patch. Soon after, I received an e-mail from a senior HP manager offering me a $100 credit. Literally within an hour of hearing this, a patch was posted on the HP website that promptly fixed the issue I was having. I think this goes to show that it sometimes can be worth the effort to fight with a company if they don’t deliver the product they claim to offer.

  14. Sarek says:

    “…continue working your way up the ladder…”

    You mean like holding for an hour waiting for the supervisor, then either being disconnected or told, “no supervisor available?”

  15. jp7570-1 says:

    I have a few simple rule that have been effective in dealing with customer service:

    1) Be nice (as said before). It goes a long way;
    2) Do let them know if you are a long-time customer, but don’t harp on it (they probably have that info in your record if applicable);
    3) Be concise regarding your problem/complaint;
    4) When appropriate be realistic as to what you want to happen in order to resolve the problem; and,
    5) Thank the CSR if the problem is resolved to your satisaction.

    These have served me well in CSR experiences with companies big and small. When the CSR is particularly helpful (yes, it happens!), I try to find the email of the highest person in the company that I can find and thank them for their help. When things don’t go so smoothly, I also look for the email to the highest contact (starting with the C-suite). If need be, I send a brief summary of the issue and a proposed resolution.

    These approaches don’t work every time, but I think I’ve had a roughly 80% success rate. Resolutions have involved discounts on purchases (20% or more), waiving of the purchase price altogether, deep discount vouchers for future purchases, and similar items.

    It never hurts to ask for these things and you may be pleasantly surprised how often you might snag a win.

  16. sirwired says:

    Two more pieces of advice:

    - Use a friend capable of delivering a frank, honest, opinion, as a sounding board before you pour a lot of time and energy into “fighting the man.” Maybe you AREN’T in the right

    - Decide for yourself “is this really worth it?” Spending three hours fighting over a $5 billing mistake just isn’t worth the aggravation, even if it should be obvious to everyone involved that you are right. Certainly consider taking your business elsewhere in the future, but don’t waste time fighting to get the mistake fixed; by all means ask, but don’t bother escalating to heck and back.

  17. Sad Sam says:

    I’m in a fight with Home Depot over a $2 charge to our HD card (which we use for our investment properties and only use when they are running a 0% for x mos). Last month I called and complained and after the CSR walked me thru I realized I was in error, but they were hiding the ball. The bill said pay X to avoid interest charges but hid the ball that said also pay y to pay your new non 0% charges.

    I was ready to cancel the card and take my biz to Lowes but the refunded the $2. I also told the CSR I was going to sell my HD stock too.

    When I paid the bill last month I made double, triple sure to reread the entire bill and paid way above what I needed to and here I am with another bill with a $2 charge.

    WTF, and yes I am calling about that $2 b/c its not he $2 its the point, they offered 0% we took them up on it and now they are trying to screw with us.

  18. balderdashed says:

    My number one piece of advice in dealing with CSRs would be: always audiorecord every conversation. It’s happened more than once that I’ve been told by a CSR that they have no record of my previous conversation with another company rep, and that no one at the company would ever have agreed to refund my money, etc, etc. To which I’ve replied: “Oh, really. Would you like to hear an audio recording of your rep who identified herself as ____ saying that very thing at 4:58 PM Central Time on Tuesday, November 27.” You may or may not get the issued resolved to your satisfaction in this manner. But when a CSR lies through his or her teeth, it can be some consolation to have the deception documented, and be able to make it available on web if the situation warrants. This strategy also ensures that for your own role in the conversation, you’ll be well prepared, reasonable and polite — even while unrelenting in insisting that the company do what it originally promised to do. Since the company may well be recording you, it’s only fair for you to do the same — which you can do legally in 38 of our 50 states, with or without the knowledge or consent of the other party.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      As you said, not every state permits recording without the consent of all parties. I’m in Pennsylvania, which is a two-party consent state. This is a weird thought, but every time I call Customer Service, I get the recording that states the call may be recorded for quality control purposes. If the CSR and I are both aware of this, do I need their consent to make my own recording? IANAL, so I have no idea if that would hold water.

      • tungstencoil says:

        To be frank: do you care?

        Seriously, if you record it, and it’s “illegal”, it’s really only not-legal for evidence in a court of law. Odds are if this is a company you have a relationship with (cable, wireless phone) you have an arbitration clause. If not, it’s still only relevant if you intend to take them to court eventually… and even then, it would only result in you not being able to play the recording. You could still present the content as evidence, they could just deny it.

        It’s pretty powerful to say, “I’m sorry you show no record. Don’t worry, I have one – a recording. Do you care to listen to it, it will really help clear things up.”

        • hoi-polloi says:

          Not really. I doubt that I’ll ever record a phone conversation with a CSR in my life. It’s more a general curiosity about how the law may view this.

        • balderdashed says:

          Actually, I do care — and in some states, it’s illegal to record a conversation without the consent of both parties, whether or not one even discloses the information to a third party. For that reason, I typically try to determine where the party is located (“It’s really snowing here. How’s the weather where you are?”) before starting the recording. And to be really frank: my goal is not usually a lawsuit. Since my time is valuable, often there’s really no way to really win in these things, lawsuit or no lawsuit. Still, I’m reminded of that old drill sergeant’s saying, “The Army can’t make you do something, but it sure as hell can make you wish you had.” I might be delusional, but I like to think that if I can make a company really wish it hadn’t screwed me over, it might be less inclined to screw the next guy.

    • Snip says:

      From my understanding, recording is legal if you are up front about the fact that you are recording and the agent on the line accepts that you are recording. Some companies have policies prohibiting an agent from remaining on the line if you are recording. Some don’t. I’m not slamming the practice though. Just FYI, the problem is not the agent who is telling you there is not a record. If they say there isn’t a record, then there isn’t a record for them to see. The problem is with the previous agent who neglected to file an adequate record while speaking with you the first time. So ask for information to identify that file with. They have to give that to you if you ask for it.

  19. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    As someone who is sometimes on the receiving end of phone calls from customers, please don’t insult the CSR who answers the phone.

    I picked up an inbound call to help out, and a woman just started in about wanting a credit issued back to her credit card immediately. I tried to get all the pertinant info from her, and she acted like I should somehow know what she was talking about. I tried to tell her that I couldn’t personally issue the credit, but I could get her in touch with a CSR who could.

    Her response? What, are you too stupid to do this for me? What’s wrong with you?

    I calmly told her that I didn’t have authorization to access credit card information, but I could put her in contact with a CSR who could. She hung up on me.

    So…how fast do you think she got the credit? And yes, I noted her file that she was nasty so the next poor soul who pulled up her account would be prepared.

  20. rookie says:

    i scream at them and call their children vile names until i get what i want…
    at home, of course…

  21. evilpete says:

    one technique that sometimes work is to call from noisy phone line, the CSR will many times acquiesce out of frustration

  22. ancientone567 says:

    Here is a perfect example. I bought a valet key ring from Tiffany’s over 2 years ago. I bought the display model with the understanding that I could return it for a new one at any time. I went to the store in the mall because I had to stop there for something else. The manager said they could not exchange it for a new one even with the receipt. I left and went home and got on the phone to the main office of Tiffany. After hearing the story they immediately told me were to send the piece so they could send me a new one. Don’t take NO for an answer if you know your right.

  23. sadie kate says:

    I was a retail manager for 6 years, and had to deal with tons of complaints (som valid, many not so much).

    I still remember the most impressive customer interaction I’ve had. This customer asked for the store manager, and when I wasn’t in, he found out when I would be in, rather than climb slowly up the chain. When he did come and find me, he was very pleasant, but also very firm.

    He let me know that he had been a longtime customer of ours, and had purchased our $20 discount card every year for the next 4 years. He always really enjoyed shopping with us, and thought our staff was great. He was in an unfortunate position, because he and his wife had purchased a rather expensive ($40-odd dollar) D&D guide for his nephew’s birthday that his nephew had requested. His nephew lived out of town, so he bought it early so he could send it in plenty of time. Unfortunately, his parents hadn’t signed off on this request, and thought D&D was devil stuff, so they made the kid send it back. We had a 30-day return policy, and unfortunately, he was now outside that window, which he understood. He said he would have kept the book if he knew anyone else who would like it, but he didn’t. He knew he was outside of the policy, but he hoped in light of his longtime history as a good customer, he hoped I could be bend the rules. Otherwise, he might not be excited about renewing his discount card when it was time. Even a store credit would be great.

    I couldn’t bend the rules, but I asked him to wait for 10 minutes while I got approval, and comped him a cup of coffee from the cafe. I went to the back office and looked up his transaction information and saw he and his family had spent several hundred dollars a year over the last four years. Armed with that information, I called my DM and asked for permission to do a paid out and give him store credit as a customer courtesy. She approved it, and he left a very happy customer. Every time he came in after that, he made a point to find me and say hello and ask how my day was.

    I was really impressed by the way he approached me. He knew the policy, knew he was outside the window, but thought he had extenuating circumstances. He made his argument persuasively, and treated me respectfully the whole time instead of yelling. I was willing to persuade my DM to bend the rules, because he persuaded me.

  24. Rachacha says:

    Whn dealing with large corporations that have to transfer you to different departments, and when department A transfers you to Department B and Department B says they need to transfer you to Department A, tell them that you were just with Department A and INSIST that they place you, as well as a representative of Department A & B in a conference call and let the two of them work it out. I have had to do this with Verizon FiOS Billing as well as ATT Wireless.

  25. emyaeak says:

    I used to work in billing for a law firm, and we would sometimes get clients who would hang up on us and call back if they weren’t getting the results they wants, only to be given to us again, since there were only two of us who answer phones, and we sat next to each other, so we always knew what was going on, not to mention the notes we would leave on the client’s accounts.

    I’m just saying, that strategy may not work as well in a small company, and probably works better in a big faceless company where the right hand often doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. In this case, it can be to your advantage.

  26. mingtae says:

    As a customer service represent for Comcast, allow me to retort as an individual and not a representative of the Company (kinda) –

    Be willing to take your business away – I’ve told many people to take their business with them as adamant as they are for exuberant credits, demands (instead of compromise) for price reduction, problems with services and our techs are NOT allowed into the home. When people have stated angrily that they will cancel their service, I offered to cancel it for them right there. Only one person in 10 years has taken me up on that offer and he called back later and decided not to cancel.

    Don’t let one CSR shut the door in your face – Policy is policy no matter who you speak to or how many different people you speak with. Dealing with technical and billing issues are the same way. People who do this end up getting the wrong answer or promised something from the 4th or 5th rep they spoke to and it ends up not being true. Most CSRs on the other side of the phone can feel your pain and everyone else that is in the same position but things cannot be changed just because you are threatening to leave, sue or hang up on someone. In regards to technical, if the first refresh does not work, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. is not going to work either. No one else can make it work over the phone and you will need to wait for that tech to come to your home or return the box (again). As far as billing goes, very simple, no matter how much you want to argue, 1+1 still equals 2 and some people just do not seem to understand that numbers do not lie.

    Don’t give up – Depends on the person you are speaking with. If the person sounds unsure of their answers or places you on hold a lot to give you answers then ask to speak to another rep or supervisor (stick with the reps, they do this thing every day). I know you want that feel good answer but I also want to be paid $50 an hour to be a CSR. Neither is very likely to happen. If something seems too good to be true, it just might be. I know the Consumerist tells you to carpet bomb executive customer service and the VPs but most of that rolls back down hill. Some companies will bend over backwards and it makes the CSRs look bad. I’ve often complained that if the VP can do this, why can’t I if its going to help fix an issue. Some CSRs cannot bother going that extra step to ensure issues will be resolved. With CSRs like that, you just have to come to the conclusion that this is how it is and if I do not like it, I’ll take my business somewhere else.

    • Hub Cap says:

      Unfortunately I almost never get the same answer from two different COMCAST CSRs. I try again when I feel the first one is wrong, does not know the accurate information, is flat out lying based on what is on the web site, etc. Most I have dealt with do not seem to care whether I like what they tell me or not. Their attitude is “on to the next… I’ve spent enough time with this jerk.” Online chat sessions are the worst. Often the grammar / sentence structure is such a mess the answer is nonsensical or cannot be relied on to make a decision. I have tried several times for more than six months to get more channels. Once I complained to HQ in Philadelphia. They had a local York PA employee phone me. She gave me a price. The web site said it was a short term promotional price. She swore it was the “everyday” price. I told her I would discuss it with my wife and she promised to call back after investigating the price issue. She never called. I called her, got voice mail and left a polite message asking for a call back. No one ever called me back. Why would I NOT think she was lying to me? COMCAST, do you not want more money from me? Are you not capable of telling me the truth and backing it up with an email for evidence? FACT: You are the largest cable provider in America. FACT: Total subscribership declines every month. My ZIP code is 17313 and I live in York Township Pemmsylvania. Is there a phone number I can call and get an honest answer from a person who speaks clear English and knows the offerings in my market area? I am sitting here with my check book open wanting more channels. You have tried diligently to not get more business from me. Seriously?

  27. El_Fez says:

    Where is “Be nice”? Seriously, treating them like a real person with words like Please, Thank you and general “Be A F*&@^ing Human” goes a long way I’ve found.

  28. Snip says:

    Escalation will work if you’re dealing with a CSR who is not yet fully familiar with how far you can extend company policy (not that uncommon in a field with high churn). This is not because you are getting somebody with greater authority than the original CSR, but because you are getting someone who has been there longer and knows the ropes better. However, escalation will not work if you’re trying to buck policy altogether. The only people who can flout policy on your behalf are far too well insulated for your call to ever get through.

  29. make7acs says:

    * Be willing to take your business away.

    Also doesn’t work. Most call reps don’t earn commissions or have their cancellations
    tracked. Because of this, they don’t care if you cancel. If anything, they will get happy
    because they now have an easy out of the conversation and no longer have to assist you.

    * Call the company again and hope you connect with someone more reasonable.

    Don’t do this. We note absolutely every single conversation in the account and you will just look like a tool. Soon as they know you already hung up on another associate, they are going to assume you are a prick and won’t go out of their way to help you. Speaking to a supervisor works in some situations, but in the majority of situations you will get the same response.

    Executive email is the best approach. Or social media.

    * Don’t give up.

    Agree on this one. Though after you speak to the first level of customer service reps a few times, you should generally give up on trying that avenue again.

  30. sybann says:

    I am in this field, and we are actually empowered to “comp” people if we can’t actually offer refunds. And you have NO idea how often people do NOT get what they could because they are ASSHOLES to us.

    #1 – I am not “you people” – I work for pennies in a cube fucktard. I make nothing extra for “screwing you over.”

    #2 – you will get less, or nothing if you abuse me or my coworkers. Deal.

  31. NCB says:

    I had a customer today that violated all the above suggestions.. Customer kept calling back after getting a No (it involved legal paperwork that was missing the required signatures so there really wasn’t any recourse) and talking with the #2 executive, not once but several times.

    He called at least 5 times and launched into the most awful tirade each time to whomever answered the phone.I kept it professional, but now he’s well known to every one in the company and I do hope he takes his business elsewhere.

  32. pamelad says:

    If you have been helped by a CSR, ask for a form to leave positive feedback if it’s not automatically provided.

    A select few companies will get the message that informed, empowered CSRs are important to their customers. Those are the companies that invest in training, and with confidence give their CSRs ability to make credits and decisions on customers’ behalves.

    I feel sorry for those CSRs, real people, who get yelled at and cursed at while haplessly trying to do their jobs without proper training or authority.

  33. verbatim613 says:

    I learned lessons by reading Consumerist. My 5 email carpet bomb campaigns have all resulted in wins: 2 for my parents, 1 for me and 2 for friends of mine.

    I have found the “take business elsewhere” has worked for me. One time I was having trouble with my credit card. At first the guy was reluctant to help me. As soon as I said, “Please help me fix this problem or I would like to cancel my credit card right now.” Immediately, the problem vanished. As every Consumerist article emphasizes: I didn’t blame the rep; I was polite; I was calm; I articulated my problem and how I needed them to fix it. Also, I never used the words “take my business elsewhere”.

    I think even with “churn” businesses don’t want bad PR. Considering how connected everyone is with Facebook and Twitter and even people submitting stories to Consumerist, they must realize that some of these stories are eventually going to make them look bad.

    Like Dave Carrol, the country music artist who had his guitar broken by United Airlines. He wrote a song and made a video, which went viral and ended up getting TONS of press.

    I had a friend who posted on Twitter some problems he was having with some product. Although my friend didn’t intend this, within 15 minutes, the company contacted him and wanted to help fix the problem. They wanted customers speaking well of them, not tweeting, “hey this product sucks.”