Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to get the customer service that you deserve

Summary: Tell the business what you expected from their point of view. Word it like this: "I was expecting you to say..."

Good Customer Service
Good customer service is a pet peeve of mine. When a mistake is made by a company, how they fix it can earn or lose a customer for life.

The battery for one of my server's UPS power supplies began flashing a warning that it needed to be replaced. The manufacture sold a replacement battery for $115. A quick search in Google turned up the same battery for $59 including tax and shipping.

Ok, the same part at almost half the price is a no brainer so I ordered it. I was intending to pay with my credit card until I saw a COD option. When I think of COD it reminds me of a time, before the Internet, when the world was filled with carbon paper and telegrams. You just don't see the COD shipping option any more.

I selected COD and I was surprised to see that there were no extra charges for using this option, plus they accepted personal checks. Perfect!

I placed my order and received a confirmation e-mail without any problems except that I didn't know when the order would be delivered. I went back to the company's website and used their customer service web chat to ask about the estimated delivery date. The customer service representative (CSR) told me that it would be delivered in about two or three days. But, he told me that they don't accept personal checks for orders over $50.

Hmm, I could have sworn that the checkout page said there was a $100 maximum for personal checks - not $50. With the CSR still on chat I placed another battery into my cart and went to the checkout page. Sure enough, there was a $100 maximum for COD orders just as I remembered it. Having never done business with this company, before, I was a little nervous, at this point, as I wondered if they were a fly by night operation since their web site didn't look too sophisticated.

When I pointed out $50/$100 discrepancy to the CSR, he asked me where I saw that message; then he told me that it was a mistake and that the website should have been updated due to a recent rash of bounced checks. After sending him the screenshot, he said that it didn't matter since he'd need a certified check in order to release the order.

At this point I was a tad irritated and the abrasive New Yorker inside me wanted to type, "You're kidding me? Do you really think that I'm going to do business with you after this? No thank you!"

If I had actually sent that message it would put the CSR on the defensive by backing him into a corner with little chance of escaping and keeping his ego intact.

But, a cooler head prevailed and I told the CSR exactly what I expected:
I want to make sure we're on the same sheet of music. I was expecting you to say this to me...
We no longer accept personal checks for CODs unless the order is less than
$50. It should have been updated on our website, but we missed the page where you saw it. Thanks for sending us the screenshot and pointing this out to us. Again, we don't take personal checks for orders over $50, but I'll make an exception since you spent your time helping us out.

I'm not sure if this technique has a name. Verbal judo? Getting to Yes? Winning friends and influencing people? But, if your request for compensation is reasonable and disarming then it makes it hard for the CSR to say, "No."

Right after I sent this comment, the supervisor, Megan, jumped into the chat and said, "Fallon doesn't have the authority to do what you're asking. Let me check into this, one moment please."

Megan turned out to be extremely friendly. She told me that I "checked out" when she did a background check (meaning that my name, address, and phone number matched my billing information). I never heard of before today, but, after looking at their website, it seems like a great way to look someone up.

The key to getting the customer service that you deserve is to never make it a power struggle, even if you don't get what you want. Give the CSR a way out and make sure that your request is reasonable. If you don't do this, then the company will be doing themselves a favor by "firing" you as a customer.

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