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How to Outsmart Customer Service

When you talk to a service rep, you can't always get what you want. … Unless you follow these tips.


  • Step 1: Prepare Prepare for the call by gathering all the information you need, like account numbers, receipts, and statements. Write out a list of issues so you can explain them concisely, and keep a pen and pad handy. Consider using a headset or speakerphone to reduce neck strain during the call.
  • Step 2: Get a person Get a person on the line by following the prompts. In most cases, saying "agent," "operator," or "representative" will transfer you to a live person. No matter what your issue is, always opt to speak with an actual person.
  • TIP: Type "bypass IVR" into a search engine to learn tips and tricks to speed through automated phone systems.
  • Step 3: Use positive reinforcement Once a person is on the line, use positive reinforcement. Start with a small complaint; once they've resolved that, tell them you're so pleased with their service you'd like to write a positive review. Write down contact information for them and their supervisor, and then move on to addressing the larger issue.
  • Step 4: Ask for a supervisor Politely and directly explain your issue several times. If you're still getting nowhere, ask to speak to a supervisor and explain the problem to them.
  • TIP: Use the service rep's name a few times in the conversation to show you're paying attention and view them as a person, not an enemy.
  • Step 5: Run out the clock If the service rep insists there's no need to talk to a supervisor, keep them on the line as long as possible. Because call centers try to maintain a high call per hour volume, a supervisor may see the call has lasted too long and take it over to find a solution to your problem and get you off the line.
  • Step 6: Hang up and try again Hang up and try again. A different representative or supervisor may be more responsive to your request, especially if you mention that you just called and got no help.
  • TIP: Don't threaten to take your business elsewhere. Instead, focus on your loyalty and customer history.
  • Step 7: Keep moving up If you're still not satisfied, ask to speak to the supervisor's boss, taking care to remain calm and collected – and cordial – if you can. If that doesn't work, get an e-mail address or phone number for the company's corporate office, where you can air your grievance with someone who is more concerned with customer retention than calls per hour.
  • FACT: A recent survey found that 70 percent of consumers experienced rage toward a company in the last 12 months.

You Will Need

  • A pen and paper
  • Information for the call
  • A speaker phone or headset
  • Patience
  • Even temper
  • A computer with internet access (optional)

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