Be A Customer Service Rep Whisperer To Get Your Way

There are no hard and fast rules for bending customer service reps to your will. Sometimes kindness will get you far, and other times it will just get you dismissed. The same is true for being gruff and to the point. Much depends on the personality of the CSR, the power the company bestows him with and the legitimacy of your concern.

An Awkward Sex and the City post (warning: the post contains some foul language) advocates the benefits of forging personal connections with CSRs to get them on your side.

After the writer’s iPhone broke, she was told she’d need to wait three more weeks to buy an updated model at a discount. She called Apple’s customer service line and sweet-talked the CSR, taking an interest in the rep’s poodle. In turn, the rep found a way to let her buy her new iPhone immediately.

Your own results will of course vary. If you find yourself on the line with a CSR who seems unwilling to help, you can always end the conversation and call back until you connect with someone more agreeable.

Uh, lets be nice, America [Awkward Sex and the City (warning: foul language)]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    I dunno, I’m pretty sure corporations are out to screw me, so it’s a little late to try the ‘seduction’ tactics…

  2. Agent Hooter Enjoys Enhanced Patdowns says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that customer is a sleezy entitled asshole?

    • RedOryx says:

      No you are not.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      I don’t see that in her post.
      She wanted a slight variance in a policy and was nice to the person on the other end of the line to get it.

    • MMD says:

      Maybe, but that “sleaze” uncovered a pretty interesting policy loophole, did it not?

    • hoi-polloi says:

      I’m just wondering how the hell a poodle comes up in that conversation. “Hi, I’m calling to see if I can upgrade early since I broke my phone. Do you have pets?”

      I believe in being polite and reasonably upbeat with CSRs. Even if I’m frustrated by a company or circumstances, this person didn’t cause it. I don’t want to come off as phony or waste their time. If they’re looking something up and start idle conversation I’ll engage. I let them set that tone, and none have brought up much more than weather, how my day is, or familiarity with my city.

  3. sirwired says:

    Just don’t completely waste the rep’s time. They are graded by how long each call takes, and if they just don’t have the ability to do what you want, and you’ve stretched out what should have been a two-minute call to 15+, you can be sure they’ll be notes in your account about how not entitled you are to get whatever it is you are asking for.

    In addition, if supervisors routinely listen in on calls in that center, the rep could get in trouble for wasting time with small-talk. (It totally depends on the call center and contract with how friendly they are allowed to be.)

    • meltingcube says:

      This. With being a phone and live chat rep for a few years (still do it once in awhile if someone calls in sick), these are the best ways to get what you want:

      1) Be polite, respectful, and understanding. (calling up demanding that the person does something for you, will immediately guarantee you wont get what you want – every time)

      2) Don’t ask for something outrageous or time consuming (like demanding 6 months free because your service was out for 5 minutes)

      3) Don’t waste the person’s time with small talk (I dont care how many dogs you have or how the weather is by you)

      Following the above will almost guarantee you that the person on the other end will help you, assuming they have the power to do so.

  4. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    It doesn’t hurt to do business with a company that has a track record of having good service whenever possible and practical. Whenever Amazon blows it, they correct the problem quickly. Always paying by credit card and initiating a charge back when necessary doesn’t hurt either. My local newspaper company was giving me a hard time over giving me a timely refund so BAM!!!

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      The only two times I have called Amazon’s customer service team in the years and years I have been a loyal prime member I have had terrible results. Once I was buying an expensive TV and the return policy was very unclear (the checkout said it was in the description, description said it was in the checkout). I called to see if I could get a better answer and the CSR told me I would find out once the order has been completed. Umm, what?

      The second time I bought a Kindle with their mobile app and wasn’t able to mark it as a gift. Since they make such a big deal about this during checkout on the computer I immediately called CS. After placing me on hold multiple times she came back 15 mins later and told me that the Kindle had already been shipped and they could not change the shipping address. Again, umm what?

      Luckily both times Amazon followed up after the call with some sort of automated email that actually answered the questions, but I have never received the service so many others rave about.

      • ExtraCelestial says:

        In their defense both times I hung up defeated and decided to just figure it out on my own rather than trying to continue a conversation that was going nowhere fast. Maybe if I continued pressing I would’ve gotten a better answer

      • Major Tom Coming Home says:

        Sorry to hear others have not had a good experience at Amazon. In all fairness, the problems I have had all involved fragile items breaking and amounts of less than $100. Usually less than $30. I assume their customer service people are all subcontinent script readers so I have always sent email. I’m don’t know if they review account histories before responding, but I’m also a prime member and have dropped more coin there than I like to admit. Maybe I have reached “bronze status” or something.

        i will say that the packing of fragile items by Amazon is terrible. Either the warehouse workers are sloppy or their quotas are too high for them to spend time packing anything well. The only reason I stick with them for fragile things is that I sometimes get great deals from Amazon Warehouse and have never had a problems getting a refund.

  5. thomwithanh says:

    For those of us who fly on US Airways we have a name for this: “Agent Roulette” – and you know what, it works almost every time!

  6. USofaKing says:

    I’m a retail manager and I will do everything I can to take care of the customer if they are nice. I don’t want to give any customer the impression that being a jerk gets you what you want.

    • Major Tom Coming Home says:

      I’ve worked a lot of retail and I have found most managers want to do what is fair and reasonable and don’t want their customers to be unfairly treated. The problems seem to occur when managers and especially their employees aren’t empowered to do anything beyond a very narrow standardized policy. I wanted to buy something that was missing a price tag at a goodwill store over lunch today that would normally have been priced at two or three dollars. I’m a regular at the store and visit twice a week and most of the employees know me by sight. The cashier needed to get a manager to have the items priced. I understood she could have gotten in trouble for pricing something herself and I really needed to get back to work, so I politely excused myself, apologized, and left. I understand they are worried about theft and cashiers playing shenanigans, but having to call a manager over a used three dollar t-ball bat isn’t a good use of anybody’s time, including the people in line behind me.

  7. JeremieNX says:

    How about just being clear and concise? I know people who use about 1000+ words to describe something that could be done in 100 or so.

  8. ExtraCelestial says:

    I think it also depends on the situation. If I’m asking for something of course I’m going to be nice. If I’m calling about some incompetence the company has thrown my way and the CSR (after initially speaking to them nicely) is continuing the downward spiral of incompetence, I’m not going to continue being nice while I’m being bulldozed or taken advantage of. There’s no reason to be a full on dick to someone that has their hands tied (or to anyone, really) but occasionally toeing the line of dickdom is necessary and warranted.

  9. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    I’d rather whisper to horses :

  10. Cat says:

    Learn a few key phrases in Hindi and Tagalog.

    I can sweet-talk me some CSR babes… mahal sa akin na matagal na panahon.

    • Thopter says:

      Amusing how seven words translate down to just four.

    • The Lone Gunman says:

      You were stationed at Subic Bay, weren’t you?

      Umiinom ba kayo ng credit card?

      • Cat says:

        No, but many stationed there tell me they would have never left if they didn’t close those bases. Good food, cheap beer, easy living, great beaches, and sweet island girls. Yea, what else does any man need?

        Bumili sa akin ang aircon jeepney?

        • The Lone Gunman says:

          A ceiling fan. Air conditioning is SO overrated….

          • Cat says:

            Plus, think of the recreational value of a ceiling fan in a roomful of Filipinas. The mind boggles.

            But a ceiling fan in a Jeepney? I’ve never seen such a thing. Although I wouldn’t put it past them…

  11. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I treat others as I want to be treated. I always approach CSR’s with kindness and decency, after all, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    • StarfishDiva says:

      We have a really convoluted return policy for devices without a contract purchased. If one of customers (businesses that sell our products), calls in and we have a good old time laughing and carrying on, I will almost always override the entitlement. If you are nasty, disrespectful and rude? “Sorry, sir that’s our policy.”

      Then again, I’m not a typical call center, so I don’t have insane metrics to abide by. We care more about satisfaction than handle time. And that’s a blessing.

  12. zyphbear says:

    I do wholeheartedly agree that being nice to the PERSON on the phone will get you much further than being a jerk. In fact, if you are just as patient as the CSR, sometimes they can find that due to problem X and issue Y, you then get solution A which is pretty much what you wanted, but if you rushed the person along, that solution may have gotten missed.

    I have a problem with the tactic that the CSR is not there to help you and if you don’t get what you want, to just keep calling back to get another person.
    Some of the reasons:
    1- depending on the rules, some reps would rather make sure they do what they can while staying within the rules set for them, and not just giving you what you want when it’s out of their control (sometimes depending on the rules, even out of the control of the managers) since that could get them fired or written up.
    2- Almost an extension of 1, if someone else just gives you what you want, that may have just meant one person was willing to put their job on the line while another isn’t. Which if one person stood up for the rules and another doesn’t, it just gives an illusion that one cares about the customer when the other rep doesn’t, which 99% of the time is not true, but their limitations hold them back from being able to do too much.
    3- When and how often you call in is tracked by companies (and no, *67 and the like does not hide your info from businesses). If they see you calling in more than once over a short period, many times the companies will actually limit what can be done since you are then also using up the company resources when you are not getting what you want.

  13. Nyxalinth says:

    I am always more than happy to do all I can to ensure a happy customer, WITHIN the limits of what I am allowed to do. How far this goes depends on if the customer is upset but polite, or upset and an asshole. When it crosses into the real of attacks aimed at me and not the company, they get the bare minimum needed for me to pass QA.

  14. dreamking says:

    CSRs are not beasts of burden. This ‘[insert word] whisperer’ thing has jumped the shark.

  15. cspschofield says:

    My experience is that if you are halfway nice to a Customer Service rep, either by phone or in person, your chances of getting help rise significantly. Part of this is taking “no” for an answer when you are pushing the envelope. I’ve worked retail, and the customers I despised most were the rare (thank the gods) pillocks who would A) ask for something completely unreasonable and B) when I said “No”, would demand that I call the store manager or the owner. Look, I know what kind of discounts I am allowed to make. I also have a good idea of what kind of deals my bosses will even listen to. You aren’t getting 50% off, no matter what. I’m not going to interrupt my boss’s day off so HE can deal with a Pillock who wants the godsdamned moon. I won’t get mad if you ask, once. There’s always the chance that the object on question belongs to a category we in retail refer to as “Oh, please, steal this piece of sh*t”. But take “no” for an answer.

    And don’t lie to me about how tight you are with the owner. I know him. I’ve known him for years. He doesn’t hang out with twerps.

  16. Samuel H. Dighan says:

    It always depends on the CSR you get, however being pleasant is always in the customer’s favor. Sincerity is apparently optional, but since I am a middle aged guy it works better for me than sexy.

  17. I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

    As a CSR, I wanna say that treating an upset customer with the utmost respect is how you retain their business. Most of the time, they’re upset with the situation, not directly at you. I’ve had customers hang up on me, so I call back and say that we were “disconnected somehow.” That changes their mood immediately.