Five Things to Do Before You Call Customer Service

Since December, I’ve spent more time on the phone with my internet service provider than I care to admit. Despite dozens of calls, a new modem and router, and a few appointments with a “qualified technician,” my home internet connection drops every 20-30 minutes.  Pretty annoying for someone who makes a living working from home!

My internet woes haven’t been a complete loss. I now know all the words to La Bamba thanks to the time I’ve spent on hold, and I’ve also memorized all the buttons I need to push on the automated phone system. Every few days, I get to try to beat my previous record for how long it takes to get a voice on the other end of the line. More importantly, though, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to make the experience of calling customer service a better one.

Before you ever pick up the phone to call customer service, here are 5 things you can do to save yourself a ton of frustration.

1. Gather your information.

You know how it goes – before you can speak to someone who can actually help you, you’ll need to repeat your account number, mother’s maiden name, address, phone number, and favorite reality show to about 10 other people. So why not have that information on a Post-it note before you call?

Other than your personal information, make sure you have any other related numbers close at hand. If you’re calling about a product, for example, have the serial number ready, or if you’re calling about something you ordered, know the order and tracking numbers.

2. Make quick timeline.

Which of these callers will get quicker results?

Caller 1: “Well, I bought this ab roller awhile back, maybe a month ago. No, it was before Aunt Mary died, so it’s been 2 years. Or maybe just 1 year. Anyway, it hasn’t been working right — no, I’m not sure when it broke…”

Caller 2: “I bought the ab roller on March 11, 2012. I used it 3-4 times a week until April 20, when the middle wheel fell off.”

If you guessed Caller 2, you win! When you’re able to provide clear information without a lot of hemming and hawing, the customer service rep will know that you mean business.

3. Define the problem.

This should go without saying, but in addition to knowing when the problem started, you should also be able to describe the problem itself. Don’t be the person who takes your car to a mechanic because “it’s making a funny noise.” Do some research and try some basic troubleshooting before you pick up the phone. For instance, if your washing machine stops working, make sure it’s plugged in securely first. Ask yourself what specifically isn’t working – is it completely dead? Does it work until it reaches the spin cycle?

The more details you have, the more answers you’ll have when you call customer service. They’re trained to ask a series of questions and start with the easiest solution first. There’s nothing more satisfying than saying, “I’ve already done that” and moving on to the next step without wasting your time.

4. Understand your rights.

If you demand a refund for something you bought in the 90s, you’re probably going to be disappointed in the outcome of your customer service call. However, you should also be aware of what is possible. Does your item or service come with a warranty? Is the problem beyond your control, or are you calling because your niece dipped your cell phone in the toilet again? The nature of the issue will greatly affect the available options.

Some companies will insist that nothing can be done, but if you know better, ask to escalate the call. Speaking with a supervisor will often (though not always) result in a better outcome, as well as an opportunity to provide more details.

5. Take deep breaths.

If you’re calling customer service, chances are you’ll spend some time on hold. Don’t let it stress you out – grab a book to read while you’re waiting! Also, be prepared for the possibility that the call may not end the way you’d like it to, and tell yourself that you’ll remain calm.

Losing your temper during a customer service call is one of the fastest ways to guarantee a less than desirable outcome. Treat the representatives with respect, even when you’re ready to slap them, and you’ll notice a big difference in the way you’re treated in return. While being prepared and friendly hasn’t fixed my internet connection issues, it has helped me dread the experience of calling my provider a little less.

Do you do the 5 things above before you call customer service? Any other tips for making the experience as positive as possible? We’d love to hear your customer service stories!

2 responses to “Five Things to Do Before You Call Customer Service”

  1. I think one of the main benefits of being prepared before a customer service call is, you’re more likely to get better results. Like you suggest here, if we show up with vague details, the representative won’t know what we need or how to help. We can make their job easier, by taking the time to research and iron out the details. Great tips.
    – Dan

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