Wednesday, April 1, 2009

All You Have To Do Is Ask

As I type, I am on hold with US Airways. Don't you love being on hold? It just gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

Yeah, right.

I loathe being on hold. Luckily, I have speaker phone and that allows me to set the phone down and listen to annoying hold music until an agent finally greets me.

As much as I hate sitting on hold for what seems like years, it has really paid off for me. Companies are far from perfect. They make mistakes. In the case of US Airways, I was quoted one price and charged another. We make mistakes as well. Oftentimes the reason we call customer service is because of our own errors. But that doesn't necessarily rule out our ability to reverse our errors and get what we want.

When it comes to customer service, I've always had success getting what I want. Here are my secrets:

Be friendly. Start off the conversation with something like, "Wow, I thought I'd never get off hold - I bet you guys are swamped today!" You have to remember that these are real people with lives, and they would like to be treated well. Just do your best to win them over in the beginning and they will be more likely to want to help you out. A first impression is a lasting impression, and if you start off the call screaming at them with your problems, you're probably not going to be happy with the results.

Calmly and clearly explain the problem. Explain your situation and why you feel like you were overcharged (or whatever the problem is). You really need to keep your cool throughout this explanation. Remember, this agent didn't cause the problem, he's just fielding calls.

Have records ready to strengthen your case. Emails, chat transcripts, confirmation codes, even your own personal notes are vital to your case. This will help you to stay consistent and give you a whole lot of credibility.

Be persistent. Don't get flustered and hang up the phone when you don't get the results you are looking for right away. Repeat the details of your situation. Although you should stay calm, you can get a bit more firm as the call goes on.

Don't make it their fault.If you put the blame squarely on them, their pride will be hurt and they'll be less likely to budge. Instead use phrases like, "It was just a misunderstanding," to keep the conversation less argumentative.

Say "thank you" every now and then. Typically, when agents are working on making billing changes or other such matters, they will have to put you on hold. Each time they say, "Can I put you on hold for a minute?" say something to the tune of, "Of course. I know you are working hard on this and I really appreciate that."

Speak to superiors. If the agent you are talking to repeatedly tells you there is nothing he can do, ask to speak to someone who does have the power to help. This is usually a manager or a supervisor. Although you may have to start back at step one by explaining your situation, you've got another shot with the people at the top.

Call back. If you can tell your agent isn't going to budge, call again to get another agent. Some agents just aren't willing to do anything for you, but odds are there is an agent out there that will. In big companies especially, you'll typically get a different call center, let alone a different agent. I've done this many times, and while one agent will tell me "there's nothing I can do," the next agent is able to clear up my issues in a jiff. Again, you'll have to start over at step one, but it will pay off in the end.

Well, I just got off with the customer service agent. Problem solved. I just saved myself $300 by making a phone call. I definitely had to execute those strategies that I outlined above (especially the one about being persistent - the call lasted over an hour!). But it paid off.
US Airways just got added to my list of successful customer service exchanges. In case you are wondering, here are some others as well as a brief explanation of why I called.

Wells Fargo - I've called about overdraft fees at least a half dozen times. These aren't cheap - typically around $25. I've always had them reversed.

T-Mobile - I've called T-Mobile over all kinds of charges I didn't understand. I've also called when I have been close to going over on my minutes. I've always been successful in getting my bill reduced. In some cases they have given me 100-200 free bonus minutes to keep me from going over.

Chase Bank - I was charged a bank-to-bank transfer fee once. My argument was that I didn't know the fee existed, and they reversed it.

There are countless others, but the key is this: all you have to do is ask. Companies want you to be loyal to them, so they aim to please.

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. So start taking some shots and saving some money. I'm out - YCC

1 comment:

  1. I've always thought answering the phones at the end of those noxious punch-a-button mazes must be one of the worst jobs on earth. By the time you get through the infuriating maze and have had to "talk" with a smug-sounding robot voice and then sit there for ten minutes listening to dreadful Muzak--or worse, advertising messages!--you're really steamed. Even when you make it a point to picture the hapless human being on the line, it's hard to keep the edge of annoyance out of your voice.

    The MOST infuriating robo-remark in these things is "we value your business." {snort!} If you valued my business, you'd hire someone to answer the phones!

    While it's true that sometimes I've managed to get questions settled and money refunded, often the phone rep hasn't a clue, especially if he or she is located overseas. If you weren't already annoyed enough by the endless wait on hold, it just adds injury to insult when the person you reach can't help you.

    Want a conspiracy theory? Mine is that corporations set up these systems to be as frustrating and infuriating as they can be made specifically to discourage consumers from calling. Who knows how much money they pocket when people decide not to jump through those hoops to save a few bucks?


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I'm just a young guy, working hard (but not too hard) as a full-time teacher. I survived college without accumulating a penny of debt and have a decent nest egg saved up for retirement. Like my father and grandfather before me, I've been raised to earn, save, and spend wisely. I'm always on the look out for bargains, deals, promotions, financial tips and advice, economic news and anything else related to money. My goal is to let you in on everything that has served me well over the years financially, as well as all of my latest money discoveries. Enjoy!
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