What To Do When The AT&T Rep Won’t Help You – The Consumerist

Last week we wrote that AT&T charged Spoco’s Amex card twice for the same payment, but their CSRs refused to investigate the issue for him. After we posted his story, AT&T took notice and reversed the charge. That raises the question these stories always raise, which is, “How do I get the same result if my problem isn’t published on Consumerist?”

We’ve covered executive email carpet bombs (EECBs) plenty of times before, and we try to publish unlisted numbers to helpful offices when we get them. We’ve also talked a lot about how the chargeback is your friend. But EECBs and chargebacks are both pretty severe actions, and we figured there had to be some middle-ground you could try first, so we asked an AT&T representative what you should try if the CSR keeps refusing to help you.

We’ll admit, this isn’t some silver bullet that will solve your problems. However, it does provide you with a couple of “official” routes to try when the front line of customer service fails.

Our reps are trained that escalation is part of the process, and they are explicitly instructed to escalate every time it’s requested.

Each time you call, make note of the rep’s name and the time and date you call. If you ask to be connected to a supervisor and you are not connected, hang up and call back in, THEN IMMEDIATELY ask to speak to a supervisor. We want to know when our protocol isn’t followed, and we want to resolve your issue.

Alternately, customers can log into their AT&T On-line Wireless Account and click on “Contact Us.” Then there is a box titled “Customer Service” where you can select “Click Here to Email Us.” After answering some questions via the drop-down box, you can then describe the issue and request contact from a manager. [emphasis ours]


Catfish in Your Tank?

Catfish in Your Tank?

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 
—Matthew 5:12

I read about a problem a company was having with shipping cod from the East Coast to the West Coast. Apparently, by the time the fish arrived, they were spoiled. So they tried freezing the fish, but upon arrival, they were mushy to the taste. Next they sent the cod live, but when they arrived, the fish were dead. So they tried sending them live once again, but with a difference: included in the tanks of the live cod was their mortal enemy, the catfish. And when they arrived, the cod were alive and well, because they had spent the entire journey evading the catfish.

The word “persecuted” Jesus used in Matthew 5:10 could be translated, “to be chased, to be driven away, to be pursued.” Sometimes persecution is violent. There have been Christians who have been physically assaulted for their faith, not so much in the United States, but certainly around the world. Christians have been harassed, jailed, and sometimes even martyred.

But sometimes persecution is more subtle. It might be the loss of a job, being the brunt of jokes, or losing some friends. And if you live a godly life, then you are going to be persecuted.

Jesus said that when you are persecuted, “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). Not only does persecution draw us closer to Jesus and, as a result, farther away from a world system that is hostile to Him, but it guarantees a reward. God allows persecution for His own special purposes.

So maybe God has put a catfish in your tank, so to speak. He can use it in your life. He has allowed it to keep you on your toes, to keep you strong spiritually.

How to be the best customer | Wise Bread

by Torley Wong on 3 July 2009 

We’ve no shortage of “How to do good customer service” articles designed to be applied from the company’s side. But what about customers? We need each other to thrive, and whether you’re in front of the sales desk or behind, we’re all humans. An obvious point worth remembering because just about anyone who’s worked in customer relations has tales of customers who weren’t just dissatisfied, they were abusive jerks. And there’s never, ever a good reason to heap hurt on someone else — such wasteful emotions clog reasonable complaints.

As someone who’s both answered thousands of issues in varying roles (and created documentation to support it) and has bought products from a variety of companies ranging from the monolithic to 1-person operations, here’s what I’ve learned. It’s biased towards smaller companies since it’s easier to enact change with them, but can apply wherever you’ll be listened to.

Document everything

If a frontline agent isn’t doing a service to their company by being rude to you, get their name. Consider recording your calls (be aware of obtaining consent; companies will often say on the line they’re recording you for training purposes!). Tagging the emails they send you. And so on. Create a history if you’re routinely being wronged.

If you need to bring bad behavior to a supervisor’s attention, don’t present your case as “I hate ALL OF YOU IN THIS COMPANY”. Rather, if it’s a specific problem with an individual, you’re willing to go beyond and point out you generally like doing business with people who work here, with an exception. It’ll be their word against this troublesome employee’s, but if you have evidence, they can’t cover it up. (And if it’s numerous people or the general mindset of a company that has you irked, yeah, you should take your business elsewhere.)

In an age of electronic surveillance, taped support calls gone wrong have become a way to escalate problems when a company doesn’t listen and a consumer feels helpless, so they amplify it through The Consumerist or one of many comedy sites.

I don’t recommend going out of your way to destroy a company, but use documented proof to substantiate the poor treatment you’ve gotten, which will hopefully help management solve the problem, and possibly thank you for getting their attention, as a result.

Learn to file effective bug reports

A surprising second point? Not so much when you realize it’s a finer level of documentation. Observe the connections: while “bug report” is most commonly associated with computer software and electronics, the key importance is being able to show someone else how you arrived at a problem via a series of steps they can follow. If it sounds similar to giving driving directions, that’s exactly true. And it’s important in any sort of conflict resolution.

If you buy an app and discover bugs, sending bug reports (via the developer’s preferred channel) will help them make it more stable, and hence, better. Bug reports don’t have to be boring text instructions. Especially when you need to show visual elements, consider using a video recording tool like TechSmith’s Jing (free basic version, I love it) to make video bug reports and narrate what’s happening — show stuff as-it-is!

Don’t assume a company’s quality assurance will find all bugs. It’s true they should do rigorous testing to deliver a robust end result, but the fact is there are far more variations of possible computer systems than they’ll ever be able to try inhouse. Customers who whine about problems they’re aware of instead of spending the same time to step up and communicate aren’t useful.

Many companies give discounts and free products for being an exceptional bug reporter, including beta tests. Don’t expect entitlement and be familiar with the company’s culture beforehand — some, like Picnik who I’m helping test their Show feature, are much more amendable to personal contact with customers than others. After all, continue to communicate. Loyalty never gets old, and if a product is going to serve you for months and years, having a close bond means you’ll be taken seriously. Not all customers are the same and you do want to be the best, yes?

Plus, after you’ve gained an understanding, you can teach other customers how to file bug reports, too, empowering their experiences.

Don’t bitch about what’s out of an employee or company’s control

Focus on actionables. What can be done.

For instance, if your Internet Service Provider goes offline because someone drove their car into a tree, knocking down power lines and cutting off your connection, it’s uncalled for to ring the ISP up on a cellphone and scream “FIX IT NOW YOU @#$%ING IDIOTS!” They can’t — that’s likely the electric company’s responsibility. All your insults serve is demonstrate is what a jerk you are. Better approach: call and ask for a status update: “What’s going on and when can you expect it to be fixed?” Learn instead of accuse. Simple.

Yes, professionals should have backups and contingency plans. But notice how there’s no such guarantee as 100% uptime in the industry. Be forgiving of occasional mistakes, and they will be forgiving of yours. Continue to make suggestions where a company can improve their service: you may not get a personal response depending on volume, but if I really enjoyed my stay at a hotel, I send in the comment card.

Another example of fruitless bitching: you’re calling a human in billing about technical issues you have with a website. They cheerfully mention they’ll escalate your details to the engineers (who aren’t on the phones since they’re heads-down programming) and suggest you take the initiative by posting on the company’s forums. But you continue to gripe to the billing agent about it. They can be sympathetic, but your words are being wasted and you’re tying up time that could be spent on another customer’s actionable problems. Make it a priority to learn about what goes where so urges you have to connect will be effective.

When in doubt, ask questions — for emphasis, learn instead of accuse. You have every right to remind a company if they haven’t been responsive (like I did for Acronis True Image 2009). But don’t point fingers. The blame game is played by losing attitudes which are too much talk, not enough walk. If someone is just, they’ll admit fault. And for all you CS reps reading this: unfortunately, while a rare minority, there are customers who have mental illness and need to see a professional. Don’t be their doctor. And never, ever tolerate abuse. It works both ways.

When you’re treated right, be vocally appreciative

Perhaps this should’ve been #1. But I wanted to see if you noticed.

Customer service reps endure more abuse than they should have to. Like I said, no one deserves abuse. On the flipside, I’ve hardly ever felt productive, friendly workers get sufficient customer praise to inspire them each day and keep going!

This is why I’m doing my part: every time I believe I’ve been treated exceptionally, I directly send a testimonial. I also often use Twitter and my personal blog to get the word out about awesome products that are made by awesome people. Word-of-mouth is especially important to small companies that can use all the earnest marketing they can get to thrive. Like what I wrote about bug reporting earlier, some savvy companies keep track of “key influencers” and may offer you goodies. These are mutually beneficial: the company’s product adds value to your life, you help support them in ways beyond paying money.

In the service industry, this also applies to eating out. You’re a restaurant’s customer. Received lovely, attentive service? Then generously tip waitstaff who’ve given you consistently excellent treatment. Actions have consequences and you’re frugal, not chintzy.

Customer service is an ecosystem: an honest, friendly worker who gets berated and hears no good words is going to be very confused, and even frustrated about why they even bother to go above and beyond. So pay attention to what makes you smile.

What is a supercustomer?

A supercustomer is not necessarily someone who throws a lot of cash at a company, although that can be part of their makeup. I use “supercustomer” to describe those — the best! — who go beyond the call of customer duty (intriguing way of looking at it, hmm?) and don’t just routinely consume, they actively participate in improving the people & products of the businesses they enjoy.

The Internet has opened up many opportunities, from the trusted reviews of Amazon Vine to the “People-Powered Customer Service” (as redundant as that may seem, we need to be reminded in an era of voice mail and faceless megacorps) of Get Satisfaction.

Old ways of putting a wall between the people who use the products and those who make them are stupid and dying, because in the end, we’re all humans who want to be happy.

So be the best customer you can be!


Get Better Customer Service By Knowing Exactly What You Want | Lifehacker Australia

Like it or not, customer service representatives don’t exist to act as your personal grievance sounding board — they’re there to resolve problems customers encounter. Speak their language and make action-based requests to get better service. 

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archive.

Over at Computer Zen, blogger Scott Hanselman put together a great list of hacks for more efficient airline travel, but in doing so also highlighted an excellent tip that applies to working with customer service at virtually any industry you might deal with. Using terms and language that fits the industry and making clear and actionable requests is the path to customer service happiness:

Make their job easy: Speak their language and tell them what they can do to get you out of their hair. Refer to flights by number when calling reservations, it saves huge amounts of time. For example, today I called United and I said:

“Hi, I’m on delayed United 686 to LGA from Chicago. Can you get me on standby on United 680?”

Simple and sweet. I noted that UA680 was the FIRST of the 6 flights delayed and the next one to leave. I made a simple, clear request that was easy to grant. I told them where I was, what happened, and what I needed all in one breath. You want to ask questions where the easiest answer is “sure!”

Three important things are happening in the above example. He was informed about what was going on, he knew what he wanted, and he didn’t waste any time telling the customer service representative how mad he was that the flight was delayed, what impact the delay would have on his life, or any other time-wasting monologues. If you want to vent, write a letter to the company. If you want results right then, tell the customer service representative explicitly what you would like done to resolve the issue.


Customer Service: Politeness vs. Demands

The prevailing wisdom when dealing with customer service representatives is to just keep repeating, “Let me speak to your supervisor,” until you eventually get what you want. Every time I read this, though, I get defensive and annoyed. I can’t forget that year I spent answering the phones for Bank of America, and the myriad of emotions I’d go through in a given day. Sure, BofA is an obscenely big multi-national corporation that probably deserves some serious punishment for its role in our recent financial collapse, but it’s also run entirely by human beings, and the customer service department are the human beings you talk to the most.

I learned a couple of very important lessons as a CSR that are in direct conflict with the “let me speak to your supervisor” rule.

Lesson 1: A friend is more likely to help you

As a CSR, when a customer made a human connection with me, I was always more eager to find ways to help them. Of course I always stayed within the rules (well, almost always), but we bank employees had a surprising amount of leeway for actions such as refunding overdraft charges. Not that that’s really a problem, anymore.

When a conversation begins with understanding, I find that progress is easier to make. So now that I’m always on the other end of the phone line, I start with humility instead of anger. For example, pretend I’m talking to someone who just introduced himself as Alex:

Hi, Alex, my name is Smithee. I’m hoping you could help explain something that’s got me really confused.

  • Write down (or just temporarily learn) his/her name. Use it conversationally, but especially near the end just before whatever changes that need to be made are about to be made.
  • Acknowledge that he/she is an independent, intelligent human being with feelings. They will reciprocate that point of view on you, too.
  • Remember their position: they’ve been talking to people with problems like yours for hours. Believe it or not, they like it when they’re able to help. Give them a chance to help you.

Sometimes I’ll go all out and just start with nothing but a little humor:

Hi, Alex, my name is Smithee and I’m afraid I’m totally ignorant, but I hope you can help.

This opener always seems to get a chuckle from the other end, which makes both of you feel good.

Using this method has been successful for me: people don’t get mad at me, and I don’t get mad at them, and I don’t have to ask to speak to a supervisor. Sure, supervisors get brought in sometimes, but it’s always their idea first.

Starting with friendliness, I get fees reversed, special deals made, you name it. When I used to call the cable (or satellite, or FiOS) company, I always ended up paying less per month for more channels, or higher bandwidth.

It’s not all hugs and puppies, of course.

Lesson 2: Even your friends can’t always help you

The other thing that bugs me about the “let me speak to your supervisor” rule is the innumerable times I personally witnessed irate customers being passed up the line, to no avail. If you’re calling with an unreasonable request (for example, this all-too-true story: “I wrote a $500 check two days before I got paid, sure, but you guys knew I’d get paid on Thursday, why did the check bounce?!”), no amount of yelling will fix the situation. You’ll simply end up ruining other people’s days, ten minutes at a time.

Ask yourself:

  1. Was this my mistake?
  2. Even so, do I have a good history as a customer? (Oh, the data these CSRs can look up…)
  3. Can I spare five minutes to walk off some steam and try to identify with the point of view of someone with a worse job than my own?

If the answers to all of those are yes, then please pay it forward instead of stealing it backward by taking that five-minute walk.

Are there exceptions? Of course! Sometimes the big behemoth is the one who screwed up. But mostly, it’s us customers who made the mistake. If you can sound like you’re willing to laugh it off, the company will be more willing, also.

That’s been my experience, anyway.