Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to Deal with Customer Service

Whether it is my health insurance provider, cell phone provider, or cable company, I feel like I am always on hold with customer service.
While I was pregnant, I felt like I was losing my mind because I would talk to one person at my health insurance's customer service department about an issue and would be told the issue was settled. Then I would call back again a week later to verify everything had been taken care of and they would tell me that my previous discussion never existed. What???

What frustrates me the most is that you get that silly recording that tells you that "your conversation may be recorded for training purposes," and yet they don't use their own recording device to document the call...well, at least not to your benefit.

That's when I decided to take matters into my own hands and turn the tables on customer service departments. Here are some tips to make sure customer service doesn't take you for a ride:

  • Even if you are calling to ask what seems like a simple question, prepare to be on the phone for at least 20 to 60 minutes. (If it is less than that, count yourself lucky!)

  • Have all documents from that company out in front of you before placing the call
  • Know what you are entitled to (ex. your comprehensive dental plan covers inlays, so why is your insurance provider denying the inlay claim your dentist submitted?)

  • Take notes on your call. In your notes, include...
    the name and employee ID number of the person(s) you spoke to;
    the date and time you placed the call(s);
    reference numbers and what they mean (customer service uses them, so you should, too!); specific details of what you were told by representative (ex. insurance provider will review claim and have a decision made in 10 - 15 business days [and calculate what that date is]);
    exact expiration dates or program periods (ex. cable bundle package rate only lasts 6 months)
    what follow up steps the representative will be making and/or what actions you were told to take by rep;
    if and when you should make a follow up call verifying that your account is in proper standing;

  • Let the representative you are talking to know that you are taking notes

  • Refer to your notes from previous calls, if necessary

  • If you don't think you are getting the proper "service," ask to speak to that person's supervisor; if that person doesn't provide you with the help you need, ask to speak to someone else.
  • In this day and age, customer service departments are located all over the world, which means you may have a tough time understanding the person you are talking to due to language barriers. If you can't understand the person you are speaking to, don't get frustrated. Explain that you are having a tough time understanding that person and ask to speak to someone else. Repeat until you can understand the person you are talking to.

  • If by what seems like the end of the call you still aren't satisfied, ask to speak to the retention department to explain your frustrations and find out what they are willing to do to keep your business. If they aren't willing to keep your business, there are plenty of other companies that would be more than happy to welcome you as a new customer.
I have figured out that many customer service departments have built in hassles so that you won't bother calling in to take care of an issue. And in many cases, it works.
But if you are tired of being taken for granted, use the steps above. As tedious as they sound, they do work.


Eric Strand said...

Hi, Great post on Customer Service. I thought my site may interest you and your readers. The site is customer service and we provide the hard to find toll free numbers of companies.

Houses, Couches and Babies said...

Eric, Thanks for letting us know that is out there. It looks like a really great resource that could save lots of time.

Anonymous said...

I work in customer service and we are just going to transfere you to someone else if you come on the phone asking for names and id numbers. We don't want to feel bbullied. Be nice, when you get a human, don't start ranting about what happened, if it is the new person's first time speaking to you.

Houses, Couches and Babies said...

Thanks anonymous for your feedback. I know this post was certainly a bit harsh towards customer service departments. And I agree 100% when speaking to a person on the phone you should be nice and remember you are talking to another person with feelings. It has just been in my experience, unfortunately, that certain companies have contended that I have made up information, and only until I confirmed with them the name and ID numbers of the person I spoke with that they some how miraculously found the information I was talking about. I know this is probably an example of 5% of customer service departments out there. But my whole point is to protect yourself as a consumer. The more information you have, the more likely you will receive a beneficial outcome. Also, I completely agree that you shouldn't just start ranting at a customer service rep, honey attracts more flys that vinegar!

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