Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Tips: How to Get a Human Customer Service Agent on the Phone

I believe it's a fundamental responsibility of every company to answer their phone! But since they never do, the consumer is faced with trying to figure out how to reach a real, live, human person with whom to discuss the customer service issue of the moment. Some companies make it difficult for us to even find their phone numbers. Ironically, among the most difficult are the communications companies!

I've Got Your Number

Several websites are dedicated to helping us find the phone numbers we need and circumvent these frustrating systems that keep us pressing buttons with no results until we just give up:


While I haven't used any of these myself, they are consistently mentioned in books and articles on the subject, and they sound worth a try.


Is Anybody Home?

If all else fails, you might be able to confuse the system into thinking you are unable to jump through its hoops for one reason or another. I have successfully used all of the following tactics:

  • Press "0" repeatedly. This might possibly get you an operator, but don't hold your breath.
  • Press every button on the phone, in no particular order. This also could confuse the system and get you an operator. Again, don't hold your breath. 
  • Don't say anything or press any buttons. The evil system might think you are using a rotary phone (if anyone but my father-in-law still has one), or don't understand what to do. 
  • Speak gibberish. If it can't understand what you want, it might transfer you. I have also read that if you talk to it in Spanish, you stand a chance of being transferred to a bi-lingual operator. 
  • Select the "set up new service" or "speak to a sales representative" option. They tend to pay more attention to a potential new customer than an existing, disgruntled one.
  • Select the "cancel service" option or say "retention department". If the company has a retention department, it's where you'll find agents trained specifically to keep you from withdrawing your business. If you are lucky enough to get one of them on the line, they are usually among the most experienced, pleasant and professional agents, and are authorized to do whatever it takes (within reason) to resolve your problem. 
  • And my personal favorite: If all else fails, curse! I once lost my temper while pressing buttons and accidentally let loose a long stream of obscenities. I was immediately transferred to a very helpful agent who solved my problem promptly and politely. Honest! Since then, this trick has worked for me on several other occasions. I think the automated systems are actually programmed to recognize certain words. Please understand that I am not advocating the use of abusive language when talking to a real person, but if it helps you get one to talk to, I don't see the harm. One source also thought that mentioning the name of a competitor might be helpful, since it's possible that the computer is trained to pick up on your background conversations.
Later on, maybe we can discuss how to get results once you have finally reached a real, live customer service agent. But for now, I hope this helps!

ClipArt from Designed to a T

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