5 Ways to Get Good Customer Service

The guerrilla guide to getting good customer service (without getting arrested).

By Ben Popken from Reader's Digest | May 2008

The guerrilla guide to getting good customer service (without getting arrested). Mona Shaw walked into her local Comcast customer-service office one day last summer swinging a claw hammer. The feisty 75-year-old clobbered several pieces of office equipment before she was stopped. “Now do I have your attention?” she asked.

Reliable phone service was critical for Shaw and her husband. They lived in rural Bristow, Virginia, with no neighbors nearby and a history of calling for emergency medical assistance. The Shaws were switching to a Comcast phone-Internet-TV package, but after days of spotty phone service, a botched installation attempt, a missed service appointment, and blithe indifference, Shaw decided to visit the Comcast office.

As consumers, we have the right to receive the goods and services we purchased at the price and quality advertised. As consumers, we have the right to receive the goods and services we purchased at the price and quality advertised.
 She waited two hours for the manager before a customer-service rep announced that he had gone home for the day. That was the last straw for the secretary of the local square-dancing club. Shaw went back to her house and fetched her hammer. “They thought just because we’re old enough to get Social Security that we lack both brains and backbone,” Shaw told The Washington Post.

Was Mona Shaw’s reaction extreme? You bet. She received a three-month suspended sentence for disorderly conduct, a $345 fine for damages, and a year-long restraining order that barred her from going near the Comcast office. Consumers across the nation identified with her frustration.

As costs balloon and paychecks shrink, customers are chasing value while merchants are chasing profits. Naturally, there are some nasty collisions. But good service is, in the end, good business-and it’s something both sides want. Before you open your mouth to complain about poor customer service, you need to ask yourself two questions: Do I have a valid complaint? Am I expecting a reasonable solution? If the answer to both questions is yes, you can use the strategies here to get satisfaction for almost any transaction.

All valid complaints start the same way. You expect one outcome but get another. It’s just like algebra class: x dollars = y service. If you’re getting 1/2y, then you should have to pay only 1/2x. Or perhaps they can throw in z, where z is something you feel equals 1/2y. It’s a simple matter of balancing the equation.

Just how much time should you spend on the problem? Calculate your income as an hourly wage. If your time is worth $30 an hour, don’t spend all day chasing down a $25 refund. Life is short. Hold times are long.

Give regular customer service a shot first. Concisely and calmly explain your problem. If they don’t do what you want, try repeating the reasons. If the first rep is stuck on no, call back and get a different one. Talking to a supervisor sometimes works. If it doesn’t, it’s time to escalate your tactics by following these tried-and-true tips from satisfied customers.

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