Article | 4 min read

7 tips for getting great customer service

Last updated June 14, 2010

Last week we looked at the roll call of the worst customer service offenders, it seemed only right to follow that up this week with a look at some easy to follow tips for those wanting to receive great customer service. All too often we focus on the business side of things and what it takes to give great customer service; we forget that we as consumers can facilitate the exchanges we have with customer service.

Over on MSNBC, Herb Weisbaum compiled a list of tips that are worth reviewing. In an interesting approach, Herb talked with three of what he calls “super shoppers” to illicit their tips. I wanted to review his tips and give some feedback from my perspective.

1. Don’t be confrontational: Customer service people take a lot of abuse, sometimes for simply enforcing company policy. If you’re nasty and say you’re never going to shop there again, what’s the incentive to help you?

Let’s face it – customer service people are human beings too. A bit of civility goes a long way. Put simply, would you rather help someone who has just told you that your organization stinks or someone who is polite, articulates the problem and allows you to find a workable solution?

2. Tell them what you want: Figure out what will make you happy. Do you want a refund, a new item or a discount because the item went on sale days after you bought it? Keep it concise. State your case and see what they say.

So many people call customer service with no intention other than to have a rant. While this may feel good, it achieves little for either party. Think about the problem and think about what would be the best-case resolution for you. It’s about negotiating a position that works, when viewed reasonably, for both parties.

3. Know the rules: Are you asking for something the company should agree to? For instance, if there’s a 30-day money back guarantee and this is day 25, that’s a no brainer.

Customer service people work within a framework. While they have a little bit of scope to extend some rules, pretty much they need to live within policies and procedures. If your case falls completely outside of the businesses policies – you’re going to have a hard time achieving your aims. Play fair and most organizations will do the same for you.

4. Take it to the next level: Don’t give up. Get turned down at the customer service desk and you should ask to speak to the department or store manager. If that doesn’t work, you need to escalate to the executive level.

There’s times that it’s worth using the “I want to speak to your supervisor” line. Don’t overuse it, but if you fell you’re not getting helpful service from the person you’re talking to – feel free to escalate. It’s your right as a customer.

5. Keep records: You want to be able to document everything you’ve done to get your problem resolved. That includes when you called, who you spoke to and what they told you. Keep all correspondence.

There’s nothing worse than having spent an hour on a call only to have the organization lose the information. Record the name of the person you’re speaking too, record bullet points of what was discussed – it’s annoying and should be unnecessary but it might save you a lot of heartache.

6. Complain to a third party: If after all of this, you still can’t things resolved — and you sincerely believe you are being mistreated — file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the appropriate government agency.

Quite simply – you have some legal protection. If an organization is breaching your rights as a consumer, you need to stand up and be counted. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to other consumers out there.

7. Make some noise: There’s an old saying in the marketing business: “a happy customer will tell five people, an unhappy customer will tell 10.” That was before the Internet.

It’s an unfortunate fact, but the squeaky wheel always gets the oil. Be a pain (but be one nicely) and you’re more likely to get a resolution.

So there you go. Great customer service experiences are a two way street; there’s things you can do as a consumer to ensure you get the resolution you want with the minimum amount of hassle. By following these tips you also give customer service people a fair go, and follow a rules-of-engagement that is best for both parties.