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How to Get What You Want Out of Customer Service

Key Behaviors to Follow for the Best Customer Service Experience Possible

Your internet company messed up on your bill and you're upset. You decide to call while you're still angry, and you yell at the customer service rep. Next thing you know, you're talking to dead air and nothing's been accomplished. What gives?

Hi there, I'm a customer service rep for a large telecommunications company in Canada. I've interacted with many, many people with varying degrees of emotion and it's become clear that a lot of people don't really understand how to conduct business with call center reps. They yell, scream, insult our intelligence, don't let us speak, and overall don't cooperate all while wondering why we can't help them.

If you follow my advice you'll find that your difficulties with customer service will almost disappear. You'll still occasionally run into somebody that's genuinely terrible, but you'll save the other 98 percent of us, and you, a lot of trouble and confusion.

Have all of your relevant account information handy.

Before you call, gather up or have quick access to a copy of your bill and/or all your account information on hand.

The faster we can access your account, the faster we can get the information that you need, and the easier it'll be for us to figure out how to solve your problem or if we need to escalate it to the next level.

At the absolute minimum, make sure you have your account number. That's the one thing that will give us access to everything about your account. By account number and/or phone number is usually the fastest way to find you, and being prepared like this will save a ton of time.

Answer the account validation questions.

Account validation. It takes time, it can feel like an interrogation, and it's super important for the companies that deal with your personal information.

A lot of customers get really irritated at having to repeat their full name, birth date, postal or ZIP code and whatever other personal information can help identify them, because they consider it a waste of time. Maybe they've called us several times over and they're tired of repeating it. Maybe they don't see the importance of validating their account.

Account validation is important because it protects your account from being accessed by people that shouldn't get into it. If you're able to answer all the questions we ask, we can allow you to work with that account and we can solve your problem. Refusing to answer questions means we don't know if you're actually allowed to access that information and you'll be refused service.

If we don't validate an account we can be fired and our company fined massive amounts of money.

Be patient.

Some account issues aren't a quick fix.

I don't recommend calling to deal with an account if you don't have at least a half hour to dedicate to solving the problem.

Some things are straightforward and just require us to take a look at your bill to spot where the muck-up happened. Others require checking multiple information systems in order to get to the bottom of what's going on. If you're in a hurry, you put unneeded pressure on the agent, which can and does lead to mistakes—usually not in your favour. Patience pays.

Let the agent do their job and you'll thank me later.

Be polite.

Insulting an agent, yelling at them, and/or making threats are great ways to get hung up on.

In my call center, if a customer is abusive—if they're yelling, swearing at us, calling us nasty things, making threats—we are allowed to end the call. We're expected to warn the customer first, and if they don't listen, we don't have to continue with the conversation.

I find that my desire to help somebody hinges on how they treat me. The customer that's giving me attitude and being a jerk is less likely to get any favours. The customer that's kind, polite, and willing to work with me is the person that's going to get the best service I can possibly provide.

Oh, by the way, being polite means treating an agent nicely regardless of how well they speak English, in case anyone forgot.

Accept that we have rules to follow, too.

Sometimes, an agent will come to a conclusion that you don't like or agree with. You can escalate that to a supervisor or manager, and sometimes that will change the verdict.

Nine times out of 10, the supervisor will tell you the exact same thing the agent did. They don't have to be nearly as nice about it, though.

Every agent has rules and policies that they have to follow. Every agent is trained in their company's rules, policies, product offerings, and information specific to their department. They are the expert. If you don't understand what they are telling you, ask. Call centers in Canada, at least, pay their agents by the hour and part of an agent's job is to help you understand everything about your account and the services you're paying for.

Just remember, if you're patient, prepared, polite, and answer our questions to the best of your ability, you'll run into fewer bumps while trying to solve problems relating to your account.

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