It can be extremely frustrating to be a consumer today. Customer service seems like an afterthought for some companies. Calling the company’s toll-free number and wanting to speak to an agent can seem to take forever. Even when you finally get to talk to a company representative, they may have a poor attitude and may talk to you as if you are the problem. You can improve the customer service that you receive – here are some easy ways to make sure that you are treated fairly as a consumer.
First, make sure to examine your bills closely every month. If you’re getting the paper bills each month, look to see if any charges look wrong. I just changed phone companies two months ago and they have already raised my bundled phone charges by $5, which is very frustrating since I changed companies to lower my monthly phone rates. I called customer service to complain and they credited my bill for $30. I also had numerous issues with my service when I started and had the company credit my account for any days that I had service issues. By calling the company and having them prorate my account for these issues, I saved at least another $30 on my bill (and why should anyone have to pay for days where they had service issues). Companies should automatically credit you for service outages, but since they don’t, you need to be proactive and make sure that you are not being charged for services that you have not received.
For those who are using online bill payment plans, it is especially important to look at your bills closely (although the temptation is to never look at these bills and just let the money be automatically drawn from your account). I know of one person who was paying her cellular phone bills online and was at the end of her service agreement. She was not happy with her service, so she decided to switch providers. Her original provider took $200 out of her checking account because she switched providers and they thought that she was still under contract. It took her months to sort the whole situation out with the company’s customer service department. Although online bill payment can make life easier, you definitely want to examine the bills online to make sure that you are not being charged too much.
Next, you have to ask for what you want. This can be the most frustrating piece of getting better customer service as no one wants to wait on the phone for countless minutes or hours for the operator to get to you. I have used email as a means of contacting my service providers’ customer service departments and some companies will get back to you fairly quickly, although they may not be able to answer your specific billing questions, which may require you to call the toll-free number anyways. I actually used an online instant messenger to resolve a billing issue with one company recently and that worked really well – the issue was resolved quickly and much more easily than it would have been over the phone. This is definitely a method to try if it is offered by your service provider.
Finally, you will need to be persistent. Last year, I had an issue with a particular institution and had talked to at least ten different customer service contacts over a two month period to attempt to resolve my issue. Frustrated that the issue had not been settled, I went online and looked over the company’s organizational chart to see who the president of the company was. Next, I found the president’s email address and wrote him an email to say how disappointed I was in the company’s customer service and how the situation had been dealt with. Within days, I heard from a representative in his department and had almost $150 credited to my account. This may seem like an extreme measure, but I felt strongly that my situation had not been dealt with fairly and wanted to make sure that those at the top of the organization knew how poor the customer service organization could be. As an aside, I talked to someone in customer service at the same company about a different issue a few weeks ago and had an immediate resolution to my issue – maybe that email to the president was a wake-up call for them?
As the saying says “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Unfortunately, when dealing with customer service departments today, you will often have to nag to get what you want. It can be worth it, though, as you can make sure that you are getting the best customer service possible.