Consumer Tips from “The Fixer”

We’ve all had frustrating experiences calling customer service. But what is life like for the person answering the phone? Chicago Sun-Times’ “The Fixer” columnist Stephanie Zimmermann will have a report from inside those call centers on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm.

Stephanie Zimmermann (Image credit: Chicago Sun-Times)

What can consumers do to improve their experiences when dealing with customer service representatives? Here’s some advice from call center workers:

Consumer Tips:

– Treat the reps with kindness. No swearing, please!

– Don’t call on a speakerphone or while driving your car, and don’t be vacuuming, eating, going to the bathroom or engaging in “bedroom activities” while calling for customer service (all of which has actually happened to call center reps!)

– Have your account number, password, etc., ready and be ready to take thorough notes.

– Write down your questions before you call and leave space to write the answers.

– If you’re calling because a product isn’t working – such as a computer that is acting up – be ready to troubleshoot solutions with the rep over the phone. This is a requirement under most warranties before a service call can be offered.

– Get the rep’s ID number and last name, and their direct phone extension if they’ll provide it.

– When you finish, ask the rep to read back everything that was logged about the conversation, to make sure it is an accurate portrayal of the problem.

– If this is your second or third call, tell the rep you don’t mind waiting so they can read through the notes of your previous calls.

And here is some tongue-in-cheek advice from a 10-year veteran of customer service call centers (originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times “The Fixer” column):

Tongue-in-cheek Advice

– Call on a speakerphone. Talk softly, as far away from the phone as possible, and have plenty of background noise. Blaring radios or TVs are a must.

– Call on a cell phone, especially when you are driving or anywhere the reception is lousy. Then get upset at us when we can’t understand you because of a bad connection or the call drops.

– If you are calling from a landline, answer your cell phone when it goes off and/or have multiple conversations with people around you. When you do talk to us, put the phone under your chin so we can’t understand a word you are saying.

– Be unprepared: Don’t know your account/member number, passwords, Social Security number, phone number or address where you live. And don’t have a pen and paper ready to write down anything I tell you, especially the name of the person you are talking to.

– When describing a situation or problem, monopolize the conversation so the representative can’t get a word in.

– Call while you are eating or drinking. There’s nothing like sharing a meal or slurping your morning coffee in the ear of a total stranger. Even better, blow your nose with the phone up to your mouth.

– Don’t listen to a word the representative says; then make them repeat everything they’ve told you.

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One response to “Consumer Tips from “The Fixer””

  1. marge says:

    Perfect timing! Last week I listened to my daughter and my friend, both of whom work in customer service, complain about their jobs. They rued about the pressures (100 calls per day!) and stresses (rude callers!) Consequently, I found interesting and humorous (tongue-in-cheek tips) the information you had gathered and presented last nite on Chicago Tonight. I forwarded the tips to both ladies in case they missed the show.