Customer service, customer care, customer relations or whatever you want to call it has certainly lost its focus – the customer.
Horror stories abound about waiting hours to get a simple problem resolved. Customers now expect to be on terminal hold, expect to argue for their rights, expect to deal with someone thousands of miles away in a foreign country who doesn’t understand American culture, and expect to repeatedly ask for the next level manager until they ultimately slam the phone down in disgust, start cussing up a storm or both.
The anger and frustration most people feel about being unable to reach someone knowledgeable enough to solve their problem is making some companies reconsider their decision to outsource customer call centers to places where they have little quality control. Companies are finally starting to realize the customer will and is leaving because they don’t feel valued.
But there are things the average customer can do to make their customer service experience a little less painful.
1. Always follow instructions. It’s amazing how many people can’t follow simple instructions. If the company has a written return policy (whether on the receipt or on-line), you need to read it carefully and adhere to it exactly or you just hurt yourself.
One-third (34%) of all rebates are rejected and never fulfilled because the customer didn’t fill out the form with their name and address or failed to attach a copy of the receipt! These same customers call the customer service line and angrily complain about never having received their rebate. The company cannot read your mind. When questioned about why they didn’t fill out the form, most customers said their return address was on the envelope or that the store has their credit card number so should have their address too. Trust me, they don’t have this information – your credit card company has it.
Another common problem is the customer who is worried about the company “stealing their identity” and refuses to give the information necessary to process the request. If you (the customer) made the call or sent the letter to the company, you should be confident the employee is not going to rip you off. And if someone called you, there may be legitimate cause for concern. If you are uncomfortable with the person you are speaking to, ask to speak to someone else. It’s your right to do that.
The simple truth is that rebate, refund and customer service people handle hundreds, if not thousands, of rebates, refunds and requests for help every day. If they have to hunt down information to fix your problem because you failed to fill out a simple form with your address, they will move on to an easier request just to get through the pile of paper on their desk. It could be weeks or months before your request is even looked at again, if ever. Follow all instructions, whether you think they are stupid or not.
2. Keep documents and document contacts. To speed up any request with customer service it helps to have all your information in front of you. Such as account numbers, disputed amounts, etc. You have a more powerful case when you can have facts and have the proof you need to get your problem solved.
More than half (56%) of people calling customer service do not have their account number available when asked and then ask the representative to wait while they hunt for it. What were they doing while they waited on hold? Be prepared to give dates, amounts and charges when asked.
Always write down the name of the person you talked to. Get their first and last name and their employee ID number if they have one. Make note of the date and time you called and the details of what they told you or promised you they would do. Write it on the bill or receipt so that it doesn’t get lostt. If you need to call back a second time, ask for a direct dial number or extension for the customer representative so you won’t have to go through the whole story with a different person.
The single most important thing you can do if you do nothing else is to keep the receipt for every item you own for as long as you own it. With the exception of consumable items like food, gas, newspapers, etc. You can’t enforce your warranty, get a rebate or a refund if you can’t prove you bought it. Put all your “keep” receipts in one place so you can easily find them. Once a year throw out any receipts for items you discarded during the year.
3. Allow time for the process to work. It’s human nature to want our problems fixed as soon as we realize we have a problem. It doesn’t always translate that easily in the real world. Sometimes the company needs time to get your problem solvedd.
If the rebate or refund form you mailed in said “allow 4 to 6 weeks for processing” that means 4 to 6 weeks, plus another week if you mailed it in. Mark your calendar 7 weeks out for a follow-up. It really doesn’t get your rebate or refund to you any faster to keep calling the company. And may actually slow it down if the company thinks you’re a pain in the butt.
Remember customer service people process hundreds and hundreds of requests. If they have to stop to search for yours in a big pile of requests to verify they received your form. It will just take that much longer to get to it done. Don’t send in duplicate requests either because if your duplicate comes in before they’ve finished processing the first request. The company may cancel both to allow them time to check for more duplicates. So wait patiently for the system to work, you aren’t the only one asking for a rebate or refund.
4. Keep your request simple. Try not to confuse the customer service representative by telling a tale of two cities when you call. Make your most important request first and let them solve it. Then bring up any other minor issues that are bothering you about your relationship with the company.
For instance, let’s say you are getting overcharged a penny on every call you make on your long distance and your address still hasn’t been updated from when you moved a year ago. Let them take care of the overcharge first because if you run out of time or patience. The address change is easy to take care of on another call if you have to. Believe me they’ll find you if your bill is returnd by the post office. An easy way to handle multiple problems is to write a note for yourself before you call with each issue listed. So you don’t forget anything and be sure to prioritize them by order of importance.
5. Be courteous to the person helping you. Remember that the person processing your rebate or handling your complaint is a human being who has feelings just like you. It’s not their fault that something went wrong (unless of course they promised to do something that never happened).
Computers and automated billing systems have created a lot of problems for customers. Try to keep in mind that there wasn’t a group of people at the company who sat down and decided to mess up your account or not give you a rebate. Things happen and they happen to everyone at one time or another. It just happened to be your turn.
Finally, feel free to make helpful suggestions on how the customer service process might be improvedd. Some companies have a system of culling these suggestions to improve things. The key here is to make it about the process or service. Not to make a personal attack on the person helping you.
If you stick to these five simple suggestions you might be able to minimize your frustration with the whole process. And actually get what you want without getting an ulcer in the process.