How To Butter Up (Rather Than Berate) Customer Service To Get What You Want

How To Butter Up (Rather Than Berate) Customer Service To Get What You Want

When you call customer service, it’s often easier to get angry than it is remain friendly. However, being nice and a little brown-nosey is a great way to get what you want. Here’s how to do without coming over like a suck-up.

We’ve given you a comprehenive guide to getting better customer service, but that preperation and research won’t necessarily prepare you for what to do when the angry gene kicks in. We also know that being a better customer is a great way to get good customer service, but so is turning your anger into politeness.

Talk About How Good The Service You Receive Usually Is


After 20 minutes of being on hold it’s really hard to open up the conversation on a positive note, but it’s the best way to start the conversation. Before you launch into your current problem, talk about how the service has been great and how loyal you have been because of it.

Obviously this only works if you have indeed been a long-standing customer, but the point is that you want to make it clear from the start you’re not trying to correct your entire history. You’re only looking to remedy a single problem. As financial blog Get Rich Slowly points out you can do this and establish a good rapport with your representative:

If possible, establish a connection with the CSR. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to find common ground with other people. Even a few moments of shared goodwill can induce the CSR to make life easier for you.

Once you’ve established that you typically are happy with a service it’s time to start breaking down your current problem. Photo by Justin.

Break Down Your Problem Without Pointing Fingers

When you’re talking to someone on the phone or in a business it’s really easy to make “you” statements. When you’re complaining about service you want to say “you” instead of the company name but doing so only puts you on the bad side of the person you’re talking to.

If you do have to refer to your representative, call them by their name. Yahoo! suggests remembering your representative’s name inadvertently butters them up:

Studies have shown that people love the sound of their own names and that using a person’s name can help make him or her like you more, which in turn will make them more helpful.

The key is that you end up making them happy by taking the time to get to know them and you’re not accusing them of being the root of your problem.

Compliment The Small Wins


If you have a big problem you need to get fixed then you’ll probably talking with customer service for a long time. This means you need to butter them up slowly over time and say “thanks” as much as possible.

Really, you’re just commiting to being well-mannered throughout, but as the Mint blog point out it works really well:

Even employees who are openly hostile to customers can’t resist your smile, “pleases” and “thank-yous”. If you return their angry glares with pleasantness, you’ll get better service almost every time.

It’s easy to get frustrated when customer service is running circles around a problem, but if you keep complimenting the smaller achievements you’ll keep yourself and the representative you’re talking with happy. Photo by the Italian Voice.

Stay Calm And Crack Jokes Throughout The Conversation


Nothing diffuses a tense situation like a well-timed joke. Humour is a great way to turn an increasingly frustrating situation around. When you make your customer service representative laugh they’ll calm down as well. Productivity blog Dumb Little Man suggests that all you need to do is inject a little humor into a talk to make it more productive:

In some circumstances, you may be able to lighten the mood by using a little humour to show you’re not taking it too seriously. Be careful though, you don’t want to give the impression that the other person’s feelings are not important. And you certainly don’t want them to feel you are laughing at them. Use this mainly as a way of taking the gravity out of a situation that is being dramatized. When a small disagreement has blown up into a huge fiasco, it may be helpful to throw your arms in the air and laugh about it. Bring things back down from their heightened emotional state by shrugging off the stress and having a good chuckle at the absurdity of it all.

The absurdity of it all is a key point when dealing with customer service because as we all know a good chunk of customer service calls are ridiculous situations that don’t make a lick of sense. Sometimes just pointing out the ridiculousness of it is enough not only to bring in a little humour, but to also butter up your representative so they come over to your side. Photo by Bill S.

The end goal is the same as any other customer service experience: get what you want. The key with buttering up your representative is to achieve that same goal without losing your temper or sounding demanding. It’s not always going to work because sometimes a little craziness is what you really need, but you might be surprised at how far being relaxed will take you.


  • How do you solve the “revolving door” of customer service agents where you can only use email or a web-form to get service, and every interaction on a single issue is with a different person? Skype and Spotify are classics in this respect – some of those support threads would do Lewis Carroll proud.

  • A lot of this also applies when going into a store about issues. I work in a phone shop and the second someone starts treating me like a lesser human being I stop caring about their issue and try to find the easiest way for me to get them out of the store. If someone is more understanding and nice to me I will go out of my way to help them solve their issues.

  • And at the risk of sounding racist, how do you conduct a meaningful conversation with an Indian in a call centre, whose accent is so thick, they should not have been placed in a position where they have to communicate

  • Fantastic article. I’m usually on the other side in this case – an agent on the phone trying to help someone out who has a problem. If someone is polite and extends a bit of common decency while talking to me, I’m much more inclined to put in a little more effort to help them out. If someone is being rude and insulting, then I’ll just do the absolute bare minimum to get them off the phone.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!