28 Tips For Winning Customer Service Phone Battles

Here’s 28 tips to help you land a coup de grace when crossing swords with a customer service rep over the phone, glossed from The Red Tape Chronicles.

1) Use a speaker phone
2) Set aside at least 30 minutes
3) Get a human.
4) Gather your evidence
5) Act like a human
6) Don’t think the world revolves around you
7) Know your enemy
8) Take notes
9) Don’t be afraid to hang up and try another operator
10) Run out the clock
11) Be firm

12) Keep calmly repeating your story
13) Say exactly what you want
14) Don’t ask for yes from someone who can only say no
15) Make a business case for your wants
16) Honesty begets honesty
17) There’s sometimes more freebies to give out early in the day, or early in the quarter
18) Email a company executive, then print it out and mail it

The next ten tips are from the customer service rep side, compiled together by the call center slaves who run CustomersSuck.com.

19) Be civil
20) Let the rep talk
21) Don’t ramble
22) Don’t blame reps for corporate policies
23) Remember the other person is a person
24 Demanding a supervisor will not always work
25) Be reasonable and keep perspective
26) Consider seeing a therapist if you’re screaming at a powerless rep
27) Sometimes you just can’t be helped
28) Don’t tell them how long you’ve been on hold

Good tips all. Polite but firm is definitely the way to go. — BEN POPKEN

Win Customer Service Phone Battles [The Red Tape Chronicles] (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    9) Don’t be afraid to hang up and try another operator

    11) Never hang up


  2. tadiera says:

    On the topic of speaker phones…

    Please try to have one that works decently. As a call center rep, there’s few things I hate worse (I will honestly prefer someone screaming at me than this) than a speakerphone that has bad feedback and makes me listen to my own voice.

  3. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    and makes me listen to my own voice.

    I am a call center rep too. I hate that, I end up talking very quietly so I don’t have an annoying echo.

  4. Josh Smith says:

    Rather than use a speakerphone why not use a headset? Or is this for some other benefit I can’t think of.

  5. Ben Popken says:

    Joshua writes:

    “As a customer service rep, I would advise you to NOT use a speaker phone unless it works well. If the person you are speaking to cannot understand you, you’ll end up repleating yourself a lot, and they could easily misunderstand you.”

  6. dwarf74 says:

    As a former CSR, I agree with all of this.

    Many CSRs have quite a bit of discretion in what they’re able to do. They must do the bare minimum – but they can often either do a lot more or work as your advocate with someone who actually has the authority.

    Not only does needlessly screaming at a representative make you an asshole, but it is also often counterproductive.

    Remember that the rep didn’t cause your problem. Treat them firmly but politely and it will help resolve your situation.

  7. dizziest says:

    As a former CSR, I want to agree with those above who’ve argued against speakerphone. There is nothing more irritating than being unable to hear anything but room noise and my own voice reflected back at me. Why is this recommended?

  8. jitrobug says:

    I’ve found that google documents is a great way to keep a running log of what you learn across multiple phone calls.

    My girlfriend and I used it when sorting out problems with both comcast and cingular and it was handy to have the document available from both home and work, and for both of us to be able to make updates.

    We found it helpful to have rep #’s for everyone we talked to.

    In the end, with Comcast we got help from somebody local and with Cingular the best service was from the “cancel my account” department.

  9. mechanismatic says:

    3) Get a human.

    What if you can’t get a human? In particular, I’m thinking about my recent experience with Columbia House. Their entire phone system is automated. No pressing 0 to get someone. You can’t even get someone if you try to quit. They only have email. Which means it’s at least 2 days to solve any problems and most of these tips won’t work over email.

  10. jakawie says:

    Re #3, Get a human…. http://gethuman.com/us/print.html
    Gethuman has a wealth of information about what consumers can do to help the customer service industry return to the core values of SERVICE.

  11. Echodork says:

    Step #1: Open the call by saying “I just want you to know that I’m very frustrated by this issue. I apologize if it seems like I’m raising my voice at you.”

    As a two-year call center vet (never again, thank god), this is like gold. This statement does two things… it lets the rep know that you are ALREADY angry about the issue you’re about to address, and it lets them know that you acknowledge it is not their fault personally.

  12. pamphyila says:

    For some reason my husband has a greater success rate than I do of getting customer services reps to respond (this includes BANK ones, too!). I think it’s his avuncular, calming manner that does it – & he is eminently resaonable – or is it that he’s male & speaks in a nice baritone? Anyway – you might try getting others in your household to respond, too…

  13. spugbrap says:

    I use a speakerphone while I’m doing the initial extended hold time. As soon as a CSR answers, though, I quickly switch to my handset so we can hear each other.

    You have to be careful when using a speakerphone in any case, because many speakerphones mute the output speaker when you are talking, and any background noises in your room could trigger that effect, making it so you do not hear when the CSR answers and/or what the person says.

    When I’m on hold, I actually put it on speakerphone and MUTE it, so I can hear the hold music and hear when someone answers. With my phone this also requires unmuting it when I switch to the handset, which I usually remember to do (and when I don’t, it doesn’t take long to notice it).

    Thanks for the interesting tips!

  14. boingystar says:

    I reiterate the exhortation to be careful when talking to someone on speaker. It can actually be harder to talk while listening to one’s own echo, so you could get a flustered-sounding rep. Spugbrap is correct: according to the article, the speaker is in case of long hold times. It is not fun to try to watch the news/read a magazine/your pursuit of choice during twenty minutes of hold while constantly switching ears and hoping not to miss something important, like a human answering (while some of you may have nice comfy headsets, others don’t). The article suggests folding laundry, which I suggest avoiding at all costs.

    Also, the “call back and get someone else” and “stay on the line” are discussed in the article as contradictory tips suggested by different people.

  15. pvtxtyc says:

    I work for Sprint so I can definitely contribute effective tips for mastering the art of customer care.

    -There is no represenative on earth who cares how long you have been on hold or how many people you have spoken to. Yes, it sucks. There is nothing that can be done to change it.

    -Calls are recorded so as a rule we are not able to give you succinct answers when the answer is no. If you want a direct answer say, “I would truly value a direct and honest response and really will not be offended by to-the-point answers.” (Note: It’s important to keep this committment).

    -The information you receive is different on every call for one main reason. We gauge your potential emotional response when unfavorable information might be shared. We do not want to argue company policy because we do not set it and cannot change it. If you as a question and we know you’re not going to like the answer, we have two options. We can quickly respond and rush you along the way or we can cut off our arm. It is important to encourage honesty and not to direct emotional outbursts for a company toward a person.

    -When you want something, there is absolutely nothing more that will earn my respect than asking for it. I will make an adjustment faster for someone who asks for it than someone who spends an hour describing what they’ll do if I don’t make them happy.

    -If you know you are wrong, admit it from the get go. You would be shocked at how much more willing someone is to help you when are willing to admit you do not deserve something. (Example: You could call and say you didn’t go over your minutes and I promise you that it will never result in as much of an adjustment as you would get if you called and said that you know you went over and you wanted to know if we would consider meeting you half way on the charges).

    -When the call nears to a close there are several things that absolutely must be said or a call can be failed and the represenative who may have truly resolved your issue may lose any kind of commission or bonus. With most companies, this is where a sales attempt must be made. We know you’d rather die than take what we are offering but we need to ask. Also, if the represenative asks you “was your issue resolved?” or “did I provide you with satisfactory service” or “can I do anything else”– this is not the time to recount your negative experience from two years ago. Please do not give any indication whatsoever that your issue is not resolved or that you are unsure of it because we have to start all over at that point. If it is a yes or no question, please limit your response (but by all means be honest). If elaboration is desired, the represenative will let you know.

    -If for some reason the call needs to escalate to a supervisor, keep in mind that this is your last chance to gain the respect of the represenative. In most cases, a represenative may truly want to honor your request but it may be outside their power or company policy. Assure the represenative they have been wonderful and politely ask that you get them a supervisor who might be able to do more. Supervisors may have little or no knowledge of company practice and usually rely on the represenative to direct them to the appropriate solution. The key is making the represenative want to help you. When they go to get a supervisor, their thoughts and evaluation of the situation will almost always decide what action the supervisor will take before they ever even speak with you. Your represenative may not be able to give you a $1000 credit that’s not really valid but if they want to help you and you ask for a supervisor, they might be the deciding factor in a favorable resolution.

  16. Gaborman says:

    As a CSR,I can tell you this: unfortunately I happen to have a supervisor who is totaly devoid of any compassion towards the Customer Service Reps who work under him; thus, if a customer says the dreaded words: ” I want to talk to a supervisor”, my stomach turns into a stone the size of Mount Everest. Of course the customer does not know this, but he is not aware of he fact that I actually happen to be a compassionate human being, and I was doing my best to help him/her, and now I am being punished by him, since the asshole supervisor will almost yell at me when I approach him with a usually valid customer complaint. SO many times, if the customer is nice, and I can see that he has a point, I will just do what he wants me to do -take off the shipping,give a refund later on on it,send him more info via e-mail,etc,disregard the strict return policy-. No need to penalize the rep, since the supervisor will usually tell the customer in even more of a blunt way that he wouldn’t make an exception,and that’s it.
    You want to know where I work? I can’t tell you that..;) Once I will leave the place,I will share it with you. Not a bad company,by the way. But that sup-ass-visor is a mess.