How to Talk to Customer Service Reps

The following was posted on a special interest web forum and I thought I would share it here since it relates to things I often touch on. This article briefly explains my approach to talking to and getting my issue resolved or at least something back from them. When I have to call any support line or help center from banking to utilities to tech support, I usually try to empathize with them, and take a peek into their perspective so I can make the process as painless and beneficial as possible. It has been modified slightly for this audience. If you have found any particularly good techniques not mentioned, please let me know in the comments.

Customer Service Representatives take a lot of abuse from some people, I know. So I’m generally polite to them and despite what some people think most of them have some authority to actually credit your bill a bit, or can pass you off to another person that can help you. Utilities are tougher since they are a monopoly, and don’t have to even provide decent service to their customers to keep them. I called my insurance company a month or so back to find out what these extra “administration” fees were on my bill. After the guy interrupting me a few times, I let him have it for being a customer service agent and not letting the customer finish speaking.

Usually, having worked phone support, I know there’s certain leeway in customer handling and you can either screw the person more or help than more than standard and still not break any rules, or even be up for disciplinary action. So, the cool people got more than the standard party line: “I’ll call networking and have them do a rush setup for you.” While the jerks and rude people got “I’m sorry, but there was no request for this service at the time of your order. That’s a separate department, and I can’t fix this for you because the setup requires at least one week to process and complete.” which was the policy.

Essentially, my tactic with dealing with CSRs is to quickly find out if by being nice they’ll blow me off or help me more. Some people are only helpful to nice and polite people or people they feel sorry for (senior citizens, etc.) and some you have to persuade and some you have to push a bit.

So, with the insurance bill, the guy started by being a jerk to me, and after we worked that out, he decided to take off the admin fees for that month (which at most companies the first tier CSRs can usually do some sort of “courtesy fee waiver”) probably because either I was pushy but polite enough or he realized he pissed an otherwise polite customer off — I’m not sure which — and also voluntarily told me how far in advance to pay before the due date to avoid the fees. We finished the call with me volunteering my tip to not cut off people while they’re talking unless you want to upset them quickly.


3 thoughts on “How to Talk to Customer Service Reps

    • Well to be fair a lot of them are not very well trained (and aren’t paid enough to care what kind of job they are doing) and are handed a book of scripts that they read from. If you encounter a script reader, the best thing to do is to try to make them go off script.
      When I encounter someone new, I cut them a bit of slack and try to get passed off to tier 2 if it quickly becomes apparently they don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care.

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