Despite your best efforts to fix problems on your own, sometimes you. just have to call for help—whether you've got broken gadgets, downed service, or just need to fix a company's mistake. Calling customer service can be a miserable eexperience, but when it comes time to bite the bullet and give them a ring, follow these tips to make it go as smoothly as possible.
Step One: Getting Through To A Real Person
Most of our problems are not so easily solved by a robot with a pretty voice, yet it's every company's first line of defence. These automated systems weed out the easy or obvious problems, but you know how to use Google, and you need an actual human to solve your problem. Half the battle in getting what you want is getting through to an actual person. Here's how to make sure that happens.
Depending on when you call and whether it's a widespread problem, this part of the process may see you stuck listening to Muzak while you wait for someone to pick up the phone ("Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line..."). There's nothing you can really do here except wait, but there are a few ways to make it a bit more bearable.
Ignore the phone tree's options. Before you even get to the waiting period, you'll probably have to make your way through that company's phone tree—i.e. "Press 1 for billing information. Press 2 for to locate a store. Press three..." I always wait until the end of the list before I pick something, because they often have an option "for other questions". This will generally always get you to a customer service rep. Even if my question was clearly in the boundaries of one of the existing options, rarely do those options actually give me what I need. Usually if you haven't heard the "for other questions" option two levels in, you aren't going to. If you ever get an option for "tech support", that's usually a good choice too—even if you don't have tech support questions, it'll always take you to a customer service rep.
You can sometimes get by just by pressing "0". Sometimes this is designed to connect you directly to customer service, and sometimes it just works if you press enough numbers the system doesn't recognise. If it's a system that asks you to say words instead of dial numbers, you can try saying "agent", "representative", or "customer service", which also sometimes works. If not you might get lucky by just saying gibberish that it doesn't understand. I'd feel bad bucking the system if the system ever got me anywhere, but I've learned that probability is not in my favour, so this has been my go-to move for awhile now. Photo by comedy_nose.
Learn that system's secrets. If you're still having trouble, visiting a site like GetHuman or ContactHelp can give you instructions on how to get through to any given company. Just punch in the company you're calling and you'll have a few user-submitted options on how to get to a real person, and on average how long it should take. Often it involves one of the above tricks, but sometimes varies from company to company.
Step Two: Solving Your Problem
Sometimes you know exactly what needs to happen when you call customer service—all you need to resolve your problem is a minute on the phone with a human. Other times, you need to do a little preparation. Here are a few things you can do before you call that will speed the process along.
Research your problem. Chances are, you aren't the only person in the world that had to call customer service with this issue, so see if you can find more information about the problem and what solutions may have been offered. Google the issue and see if someone's posted about it on a forum (for telco and ISP problems, Whirlpool is a good choice). If you're lucky, you may be able to get some direction on how customer service can best solve your problem when you call.
Gather everything you need beforehand. You'll probably need things like your account number, an account password, and a ticket number if you've called them before. Gather all this stuff beforehand and write it down, so the call doesn't last longer than it has to. Using a note-taking service like Google Docs, Evernote, or nail down exactly what you want, so you can explain your issue (and, if applicable, the desired solution) as clearly and concisely as possible.
Don't give them your life story. There are some details you may think are relevant to the problem, but aren't. The more concisely you can lay out your problem, the easier it is for them to solve it. The epic tale of how you got to that point probably isn't necessary.
Escalate if you don't get what you want. Don't be afraid to ask for a representative's supervisor if things aren't going your way. That's part of their trained process, and whenever you ask to speak to a supervisor they will give you one. Often, these representatives can be a little more helpful, especially when the solution to your problem requires authorisation that maybe first-tier representatives don't have., There's nothing wrong with asking for the supervisor, and as long as you aren't being rude, you won't be perceived as such.
Get the representative's name and a ticket number. When you're done with the call, you might think you're done with the problem, too. Sadly, that isn't always the case, and you may very well have to follow up again soon. Those subsequent calls will go much more smoothly if you can give them a ticket number, or even get a hold of the same representative. Some companies will even let representatives give you their direct line (don't be afraid to ask!), which is extremely helpful for dealing with that issue later on.
Be persistent, but polite. We often forget in our moments of rage that the customer service rep isn't the source of the problem (usually). Don't be a jerk, say "they" instead of "you" when talking about what the company did, and stay calm and collected at all times. The better a customer you are, the more receptive people will be to your problems.
If you don't get what you want, call again later. You'd be surprised how different of a response you might get from a different representative.
Every company and every representative is a little different, and unfortunately you won't always have the best customer experience. It's just a fact of life. But if you persevere and keep these things in mind, you should be able to get out with as much of your sanity intact as possible. Got any of your own tips for dealing with customer service efficiently? Share them with us in the comments.