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

To reach a live person, try these tips:

1. Push zero repeatedly, say “operator” or “agent,” or simply stay on the line until the end of the options.

2. Gethuman.com lists hundreds of companies and the phone shortcuts to quickly reach someone.

3. Try the back door. Call sales, investor relations, or the main corporate headquarters line.

4. Select the Spanish-only option. You’ll likely get a bilingual operator faster than an English-only agent.

5. Call from a friend’s phone instead of the one registered to your account. In some companies, potential new customers leapfrog to the top of the queue.

6. Call the company’s international customer-service number collect. Its incentive for keeping you on hold will drop dramatically.


Last summer, Sprint fired 1,000 “professional” customers (that’s right-customers). Some had called customer service dozens of times over six months, begging for credits. “These were the customers who had nothing better to do but call us every single day demanding credit,” one insider revealed. “And they were getting it because customer care was exhausted from arguing with them. At the end of the year, we were literally paying these customers to use our service.”

You want to stand up for your rights, but there is a limit. When you break it all down, these professional customers were probably spending more in “time dollars” than they got back in credits.


These companies topped BusinessWeek‘s 2008 Customer Service Champs list.


2. L.L. Bean

3. Fairmont Hotels

4. Lexus

5. Trader Joe’s

6. Starbucks

7. JetBlue Airways

8. Edward Jones

9. Lands’ End

10. Ace Hardware

11. Lincoln

12. The Ritz-Carlton

13. Amica

14. Enterprise Rent-a-Car

15. Publix Super Markets

16. Nordstrom

17. Southwest Airlines

18. Wachovia

19. Smith Barney

20. Cadillac

BusinessWeek/J.D. Power & Associates

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