Perhaps it’s the purchasing power of the Baby Boomers, an increasingly competitive marketplace, a backlash against automated phone trees, or the threat of a negative online review. Whatever the cause, offering quality customer service has become a focus for retailers, airlines, hotels and restaurants. Other nontraditional outlets, like hospitals and banks, are looking to make your experience with them more pleasurable. They constantly send you surveys or offer incentives for your opinion.
Here are some tips to get the most out of the customer service department:
- Speak to a person, face-to-face if possible. Learn the person’s name and thank them for their help. Rapport gets them invested in helping you.
- Share compliments, as well as criticism. Most people at these establishments work hard and appreciate recognition.
- Never threaten or get angry. If you have a dispute, approach it from a teamwork perspective: “Let’s solve this together.” Remember, it is possible that you have contributed to a problem by not reading the small print or paying close attention.
- Ask for assistance, rather than demand a resolution. Example: “Can you please help me
understand why I was charged X when the tag says Y,” rather than “You crooks owe me the difference between X and Y!”
- Ask if there is a “customer retention” department or specialist. Most companies understand that the value of keeping a customer is greater than the expense of attracting a new one.
- Be prepared to walk away. If you have received an inferior product or disappointing service and can’t get satisfaction, find an alternative provider. Regulated organizations, like hospitals and insurance companies, offer a formal grievance process. If you don’t get anywhere with customer service, exercise your right to file a grievance.
- Have a goal in mind, but be flexible. If you want a refund, be prepared to accept a replacement instead. If you want someone fired, ask instead that the company change its policy or procedure to avoid problems in the future.
With the right attitude and preparation, you can get what you need from customer service, and
maintain a great relationship with the vendor or service provider. That is what you call a “win-win.”
“The Top Companies for Customer Service” by Caroline Mayer, June 4, 2012 available at: