Don’t Wait on Hold for Customer Service: There’s a Better Way

Luckily, cunning minds have devised apps, websites and strategies that we can use to get questions and complaints heard immediately.

4. Get customer service to call you

In another twist, FastCustomer gets a representative to contact you. On the FastCustomer website, search for the company you want to contact. FastCustomer takes care of the rest. The service tells you what your wait time is likely to be.

Some 3,000-plus companies are listed, including Apple, Verizon, Bank of America and AAA. Apps are available for iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire and Chrome.

5. Let GripeO manage your complaint

Type your complaint into GripeO’s website and your gripe is taken straight to the business that’s the focus of your complaint. GripeO contacts the business on your behalf.

“Unlike Yelp, which publishes complaints publicly, GripeO keeps the conversation private between the customer and the company in question,” says this article in Buffalo Rising, adding:

If a company ignores or fails to respond to a complaint, that complaint will be auctioned off to other businesses. The business that purchases the complaint can provide the customer with a solution to their complaint and possibly attract more business with that and other customers. In this way, [Creative Director Jim] Proulx said smaller companies could compete with larger ones by offering superior customer service.

The key to GripeO’s ambitions, though, may be in the other side of its business: complaint management for businesses.

6. Use live chat

Whenever you see a live chat feature offered, give it a try. Many companies are using live chat effectively to provide real-time help, making it a real time saver for customers. Some live support options are staffed by clueless agents who seem unable to understand or respond to requests but it costs you nothing to try it out.

7. Vote with your feet

You’ll find alternatives even to cable monopolies these days (read “You Can Stop Paying for Cable TV Now“) and banks (read “Is It Time to Divorce Your Bank?”), for just two examples. Next time you find yourself trying for the umpteenth time to connect with customer service, fire your annoying provider and find a new one. Just be sure to research the alternatives before you jump:

  • Ask friends, family and co-workers for recommendations.
  • Read online reviews of companies’ customer service.
  • Search for news about a company.
  • Read through the website of a company you are considering using, focusing especially on the customer service options and policies.

In fact, Consumer Reports found that dropping a service often inspires its customer service staff to pull out all the stops to get the business back:

When the half-price HBO promo ended for one of our shoppers and the cable company refused to extend it, he dropped the package. “Once I quit, they offered it to me again — in the same phone call,” he said. Another shopper dropped Cablevision completely when his bill skyrocketed. After he quit, the company was willing to deal to regain his business.

8. Take your problem public on social media

Social media is a potentially powerful way to get a company’s attention. It’s simple to use: Post your complaint on a company’s website or Tweet about the problem you’re having. Smart companies today are monitoring social media and have staffers dedicated to responding to negative comments and resolving them.

I’ve saved this option for last, though, because it could get you in hot water. Cautions US News:

[K]keep in mind that some companies have a nondisparagement clause buried in their terms of service. “If you’re going to make a complaint online, be sure that you state supportable facts,” says Anthony Giorgianni, an associate finance editor at Consumer Reports. “You leave yourself open to a lawsuit if you start making factual claims that are not correct.”

If you do use social media, don’t just lash out. Posting a friendly question is safer, more-civil and potentially more effective than launching a nasty screed, anyway.

9. Bring in the big guns

If you have exhausted other avenues (and you are dealing with a Fortune 500 company) try contacting the company’s executive customer service operation.

“Executive customer service is a person or team attached to the executive offices of most major companies that, unlike some call center jockeys reading off binders, have the ability to solve nearly any problem,” Ben Popken tells readers at Next Avenue. Popken is a former managing editor at Consumerist.com.

Caveat: Executive customer support can be hard to locate and success is not guaranteed. Here’s how to find and use it:

  • It’s a last resort. To have credibility with the executive suite, you’ll need to have tried the usual support channels that we’ve listed above and struck out.
  • Bring your A game. Getting what you want at this level requires respectful approach. No venting, no ranting. Be polite and be ready to deliver a quick, concise description of your problem, including the solution you want.
  • Find the number. It may take creativity to find a company’s executive customer service as these teams or staff members are not typically listed on the company website. Start your search by typing the business’ name into Google Finance or Yahoo Finance to find a phone number for the company headquarters and names of its top executives.
  • Place the call. Call the headquarters and ask for one of the top execs by name. When you reach the executive or, mostly likely, a secretary or administrative assistant, deliver your brief explanation and request. You may be routed elsewhere or, in the best of all possible worlds, the person on the other end will say, “Let me see what I can do to help.”
  • Try emailing. Look for email addresses on the company’s website for a company directory (usually in the “about” area. If you can’t find the addresses you need, use Consumerist’s tips for sussing out contact information for executives. Popken’s Next Avenue article has more tips on resolving complaints via email.

Have you tried any of the tips and techniques described here? We’d love to know what worked for you and to hear your customer service war stories, good and bad. Post a comment below or at our Facebook page.

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