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: It’s a little-known secret, but many large companies like Bank of America, US Airways, Verizon, Washington Mutual, and Best Buy have a firewall of high-ranking customer-service personnel surrounding the executive offices. To reach them, find the number for corporate headquarters and the name of a top-ranking executive. The CEO works nicely. Call the main operator and ask in your most professional voice to be transferred to his or her office. Once there, quickly pitch your case to the assistant. She will likely hand you over to an elite squadron equipped with customer-service superpowers.

WHY IT WORKS: The job of the executive customer-service team is to solve all problems in their path. They like to make customers happy. They also like to keep you from bothering busy executives, complaining to regulatory agencies, and blabbing to the local news.

ONE EXAMPLE: Joe W.’s elderly, disabled mother was about to have her electricity shut off. That meant no air-conditioning in Atlanta, where temperatures were hovering around 100 degrees. She freely admitted to fumbling her checkbook calculations, and a $400 overdraft wound up becoming a $1,040 debt after Washington Mutual hit her with 20 overdraft fees. Two of the bounced checks were made out to the electric company.

While Joe’s mother definitely made a mistake, banks will often waive one set of fees a year for good customers. Pleas for mercy got only two overdrafts forgiven. After searching online, Joe found the direct number for the WaMu executive customer-service department (a previous WaMu customer had done the heavy lifting for him and posted the number on consumerist.com). One call got enough of the overdrafts waived to pull the account out of the red.

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