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How to Get What You Want When Dealing With Customer Service

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Whether you’re returning a defective product or trying to lower your cable bill, try these simple tricks to get what you want from customer service.

For a pressing problem, have a chat.

“Customer representatives want to help,” assures Rachel Hogue, a customer service manager at Azazie, a bridal company that deals with up to 3,000 calls a week from frazzled brides. The benefit of a face-to-face or phone interaction: You can make an emotional plea. It worked for Hogue when she was flying home for a funeral. Her flight was canceled and other travelers were rudely demanding a solution. “I went up and said, ‘I know you’ve been yelled at and I’m sorry. I know it’s not your fault, but I have to get back for a friend’s funeral. This is really important.’” The agent slipped her a ticket for another flight while others were left waiting.

For a simple request, send an email.

Email is great when a fix can be straightforward or when you want to create a paper trail. “The problem with most customers is that they’re angry and they let it show,” says behavioral and marketing psychologist Elliott Jaffa, who trains companies on customer service. “You have to pull back on ego, pull back on emotion and have a strategy.” Email gives you the time to do so.

Use words like “ cancel” or “refund” in your message. According to Hogue, many systems look for keywords like this and bump these messages to the top of the priority list.

As a last resort, try social media

When calls, emails and in-person complaints don’t go your way, head online. Posting on sites like Yelp or airing a problem on Twitter or Facebook can get results, particularly if a company is careful about its reputation or if you have a couple thousand followers, says Allan Blocker, social media manager at a sporting goods manufacturer who often handles complaints. If that’s not you, try these tricks to make sure your message is seen: Keep it short, stick to the facts and include hashtags, like #customer, #service and #issue-keywords customer service reps look for.

Ask friends to share your post to get more eyes on it. If that fails, look up the name of the CEO and send him or her an old-fashioned letter, says Blocker. In his experience, “For those causing an uproar, the CEO would say something like, ‘Make this person happy’-even if the person was wrong.”

3 Rules for Any Customer Service Call

Be prepared.

Have everything you need, like the receipt, previous correspondence and the warranty, on hand, says Hogue. “The more details, the better. This is going to help us help you faster.”

Be nice-no matter what.

Attitude matters. The pros agree: The calmer and more polite you are, the more you stand out from the crowd and make the customer service rep want to help you. “Remember, the person you’re talking with is probably not the person responsible for your problem,” says Nancy Friedman, president of the Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training.“They’re there to help you out. So why take it out on them?”

Have a solution in mind.

Know what you want-but don’t ask for it up-front, says Jaffa. See what they offer first. They may be willing to do more than you expect. If not, counter with your preferred fix.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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