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: Tell the company that unless it solves your problem, you’re taking your business to a competitor. It’s helpful to cite the other company’s enticing promotional offers. A deal-sealing phrase? “Give me a reason to stick around.”

WHY IT WORKS: One study shows that if a business hangs on to an extra 5 percent of its customers, profits increase an average of 44 percent. In contrast, the cost of replacing you is five times the cost of making you happy. Some companies even have a special division-the “retention department”-with specialists trained to convince you not to leave, even if they must dangle credits and freebies in front of you.

ONE EXAMPLE: Anne Braswell decided that the interest rate on her Citi MasterCard, 13.99 percent, was a little steep for her taste. She called customer service and asked if she qualified for a lower rate. The rep said no but told her to try again in a month. Braswell said, “Well, you can probably see from my account activity that I’m no longer charging any purchases to this card. Don’t be surprised when you see my entire balance get transferred elsewhere.”

With those words she was put through to a retention specialist, who bumped her rate down to 3.99 percent. Braswell says the moral of the story is “It never hurts to ask.”

A Citigroup spokesman agrees: “We are pleased that our standard practice was followed in achieving a satisfactory result for the customer.”

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