Problem #1 — English as a secondary language.
As an American, I expect customer service representatives of American companies to communicate the same way I do.
As American’s we have a certain tempo to our speech, a unique dialect, certain colloquial expressions that we use, and we should expect the customer service of major corporations that we pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to a year to communicate with us in our own language.
English is not the same in other parts of the world. Not only is it insulting and infuriating that these American companies are sending jobs overseas, but the representatives that they are hiring quite often do not have the ability to fix the majority of problems, nor are they able to understand what the problem is.
Rather than accept this as “just the way things are,” here’s a solution.
Solution #1 — Insist that you will only talk with someone in the United States.
It doesn’t make you a bigot, insensitive, racist, or rude to want to talk with someone that can understand you, provide you with good customer service, and has the ability to communicate in a way in which you understand them. I’ve tried this solution with a few different companies. My advice, don’t even wait for a minute of conversation. The second the customer service rep answers the phone, ask them if they are in the Unites States. If they say “no,” then immediately ask them to transfer to someone in the US. To do otherwise is an exercise in frustration.
Problem #2 — Time is money, they’re wasting yours.
Your time is valuable. There’s a million other things in this world that we would all rather do than to call customer service. Ever spent an hour, two, three, or even more on the phone trying to get something fixed?
I spent an hour today helping a friend with their Comcast issues — that was after they had already spent three hours on the phone over the last two days trying to get their issues solved without any positive results. I’m happy to say, we got it resolved. Still, in this case, it had taken four hours total in order to get a resolution. That’s unacceptable! However, it did lead to the genesis of this article.
Solution #2 — Ask for a credit or a discount.
The worst that can happen when asking for something is that they say “no.” So, ask! In regards to the aforementioned Comcast issue, I asked for a full month of service for free — it would have been close to $200. I explained that four hours is inexcusable, a waste of their time, and it costs them time away from running their business (my friend is self employed). Now in full fairness, when I called Comcast, I actually said I was my friend. We thought we would get better results if I just assumed his identity for the purpose of the call.
At first, the customer service representative put us on hold to see what he could do. He came back and offered a $20 credit. At this time, the problems my friend was having still weren’t resolved, and I explained that $20 isn’t enough considering that their Comcast bill for personal and work was over $300+ dollars a month. Furthermore, they still didn’t have service and no definitive answer as for when it would be reconnected. I kept insisting and pushing for a full month of credit. Finally, after a few minutes of his nonsense, I asked him to put me on the phone with a supervisor that has more “power” than he does. He scoffed at me and insisted his supervisor wouldn’t do better, but transferred me nonetheless.
When talking with the supervisor, he first offered a waiver of a monthly service fee for a full year (approximately $17/month for 12 months). Well, I explained that while that was nice and all, but it wasn’t enough and asked for a credit in addition to this. This back and forth (and I told the supervisor this as well) felt like buying a car with him just giving me a little bit at a time. I explained that I wanted the bottom line, what’s it gonna take to get you into this car today, price. Yes, I used that terminology. Finally, he offered a $60 credit. Not content with that, and I figured he’s already budging, I asked for the $17/month credit for a year in addition to that. He agreed! Honestly, it’s a negotiation. Companies are not in the business of giving you money back, a discount, or something for free, but in order to keep a customer happy, they will — sometimes.
Now, with some companies, they are very obliged to help once you ask for a discount or something for free. It also helps to be in good standing with them — i.e. paying your bills on time. A month ago, I upgraded to the new iPhone 6 with Verizon. They wanted to charge me a $30 upgrade fee. When I balked at it, they customer service rep told me it was a “legitimate charge.” While it might be a “legitimate charge” I explained, it was unethical and gouging. Especially, since they weren’t doing anything for me. I was paying for the phone and locking into a two year contract. So, I asked her to waive it. She was unable to waive it to do company policy. Not content with that, I explained that if she couldn’t waive the fee, then she should give me a courtesy discount of $30 on my next bill — she agreed! Bottom line, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Problem #3 — Not all companies are created equal.
Unfortunately, as consumers we only have so many choices when it comes to certain things. With Comcast, for many of us it’s the only viable choice for high speed internet. Where I live, I can get 50Mbps downstream with Comcast. The other major competitor is Century Link, and they offer 1.5 Mbps. Hardly a choice. Thus, rendering Comcast a monopoly. They pretty much are a utility. I “need” the internet connection to the house, the same as I need electricity, water, sewer, garbage, etc. That being said, they really don’t have to do anything to please you as a customer. They know I’m not going to go anywhere.
Verizon and other cell phone carriers lock you into contracts. I never understood why I have to lock into a contract to give them money. Again, since they have you locked in, they really don’t need to do anything to make you happy.
Solution #3 — Vote with your dollars / do research.
When it comes to retailers, there are many other options. Amazon is well known for their fantastic customer service, but there are other great companies out there as well. One such site to review internet retailiers in Reseller Ratings. You can see feedback from other consumers and watch out for problematic retailers. Avoid sellers on sites such as Amazon and eBay that have little or no feedback — let someone else be the guinea pig.
Problem #4 — The customer isn’t always right.
Whoever came up with the idea that the customer is always right has obviously never worked in customer service. Quite often the customer is wrong, has unrealistic expectations, doesn’t pay their bill, and tries to scam the retailer they are working with. Unfortunately, these people make it harder for the rest of us to get a resolution.
Solution #5 — Don’t be that guy/gal.
Before calling a company and raising a stink, make sure that you’re justified, you’ve got your facts inline, and ask yourself what a reasonable outcome would be.
When you call these companies, you need to be sure of yourself, forceful in the sense that you need to tell them the solution that you expect, sometimes you even need to be insistent and your own advocate, don’t let them walk all over you and waste your time with stupid questions. However, sometimes the problem is actually the customer. Could it be something wrong on your end? Don’t be nasty and call the customer service rep names, yell at them, or “go off.”
As a customer, you need to stand up for yourself. You might not get the service or result that is fair, but you deserve proper customer service. Ask for it. You need to tell them how to do their job. It’s unfortunate, but unless you are clear about your expectations and outcomes and ask for what it is you want, then you are essentially throwing your problem to the wolves.
Best of luck, and feel free to post your own customer service experiences in the comments below.