Get tips from the Customer Service Avenger

The Consumerist has published a thought provoking interview with American "customer service avenger" Ron Burley about his book "Unscrewed: The Guide to Getting What You Paid For". He says modern customer service attitudes treat the consumer as the enemy, so you need to be prepared for a battle.

One tip which he mentioned which I know from personal experience works is that you should take your problem to sales, not customer service. Burley says you shouldn't sit on hold for customer service for more than 5 minutes - it's a waste of your time. Call the sales number - you can guarantee that line is answered fast, by people who want to help you. As a plus, it's likely that even if the customer service line is outsourced to people outside the company (and country) the sales line is probably staffed by company employees who care more about resolving customer issues.
Another point he makes is that you should make a judgement call about how long it will take to resolve the issue, and if it's worth your time:

"The quick thumbnail is figure out what you get paid per hour, double it, and that's how much your free time is worth... If you get paid $30 an hour, your free time is worth $60 an hour. If you're talking about a $100 dispute, you can pretty well figure out that if you have to spend more than 45 minutes resolving it, it isn't worth your time."

He notes that some of the more over the top tactics he advocates (such as handing out flyers to customers tellin them how the company screwed you) can backfire if you're too bombastic, citing a case in which a company boss refused to deal with him any more after he made his secretary cry (!).

Got any tips for getting your way with customer service without reducing anyone to tears? Share in tips please.

Interview with Ron Burley, Customer Service Avenger [Consumerist]


    I disagree with the value of time. I would consider half your hourly rate, not double it if you are an employee. You don't have a magical gold mine of income that you can work on any hour you choose to earn your hourly rate.

    If I spend an hour on the phone with someone to dispute a $100 overcharge, then I save $100 if I'm successful. If I spend 20 hours doing it over the weekend, I've still saved $100.

    To avoid waiting on hold for ages to Centrelink, a friend of mine dialled up their TTY service using an old-school modem. He got helped with his query almost straightaway.

    It's a tough one. I once spent 45 minutes (!) on hold for Vodafone about my mobile service. I wish I could have billed them for that time. :)

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