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


HOW TO DO IT: Begin the call by saying, “I have a situation that you are going to fix for me today.” Clearly state in a sentence or two exactly what you want them to do for you. Have your options figured out. It may help to write them on an index card and keep it in front of you.

WHY IT WORKS: You set the tone and expectations from the outset. You’ll skip the “if” of helping you and get right to the “how.” You’ll save time, and not just for yourself. Many call centers work on commission and incentives. It’s a high-stress environment. The faster the rep completes his calls, the bigger his bonuses.

In the past, it wasn’t unheard-of for AOL reps to hang up on customers if they tried to cancel their accounts. One insider told me he took stress medications until he got acclimated to the job and its pressures. He became one of AOL’s top guys when it came to convincing people not to cancel their accounts. His reward? Thousands of dollars a month in bonuses and an annual all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico. Not surprisingly, an AOL spokesperson says, “It is not our policy for representatives to achieve time targets by hanging up on customers. Such behavior could result in termination.”

ONE EXAMPLE: Lona Nicholle has a reputation as a customer-service avenger, so friends and family are always asking her for help. Like the time her sister-in-law’s new computer went kaput. She had to reinstall the operating system but realized she’d never received the disc. She went back to Best Buy; they wanted to charge her $100 to load the missing software onto her computer.

Nicholle called Best Buy and gave them two options: Give her sister-in-law the CD or install the software free. The manager said no to both. Nicholle asked how he would be solving the problem. After putting her on hold, he told Nicholle to have her sister-in-law come in and he would take care of her.

When the sister-in-law showed up, the manager again tried to charge her full price. A quick call to Nicholle changed his tune. Best Buy installed the software free, after all, because Nicholle had established the parameters of their agreement when she made her first call. Best Buy says simply, “Happy customers are invaluable. We will do what it takes to make sure the issues are resolved.”

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