If you have any kind of subscription service, from a magazine to DVR to phone service, you know that sometimes things do go as they should.  I am part of a great team at The Karis Group that really strives to provide outstanding customer service.  And we frequently meet our goals and receive fantastic feedback concerning when we do as a company.

But, occasionally, we encounter someone that is not happy, perhaps for good reasons or perhaps not.  So, I am particularly sensitive to this issue when I have to call someone to complain about a service.

Today (Saturday, Feb 4th) I discovered that one of the TiVos that we have and one that I had thought was cancelled in August 2010 was, in fact, not cancelled, and I was still being charged for, even though it has been gathering dust for the past 17 months.

As I called, I really wanted to accomplish two things.  First, to get the dvr taken off my account.  I didn’t want to continue to pay for it.  Second, to be compensated for the 17 months of service I should not have been charged for (yes, I should have paid closer attention, but TiVo doesn’t have the best user interface for determining what you are actually being charged for your entire account).

The result?  I was able to not only cancel, but I received credit for the charges (not the entire 17 months, but enough to make me happy), plus 6 months free service for one of the devices AND the monthly price for 2 of my 3 TiVos was lowered by $3 each going forward.

That made me really happy.  CSRs Paul (chat session), Mark (first phone contact), John (cancellation/retention specialist) and Francis (supervisor) were excellent.

How can you have a great experience when calling customer support?

  1. Be clear what you want to accomplish before you call.
  2. Know your facts.  In my case, I knew I had called and cancelled, and was fairly clear on the timeframe (about 18 months ago was what I recalled), but I did not have the case number.  I was able to get the case number for that cancellation call by asking the online chat agent.  All customer focused companies will track inbound calls by some system, and they will be able to tell you the reference number for earlier cases if you have lost them or never had them.
  3. Stay calm.  People who work in call centers get yelled at daily.  Nothing will be accomplished by yelling at them.  You can accomplish so much more by being polite.  My wife once spoke with a VoiceStream supervisor (T-Mobile bought them out) for over 6 hours to straighten out a messed of cell phone bill.  The supervisor wasn’t her first point of contact, but because she had been polite and kind to every CSR she spoke to, and because they noted that in the case records, the supervisor gave us 30 hours of free call time!  You get more accomplished by kindness than anger.
  4. Be persistent and know when to push to tier 2 support or to a supervisor.  Tier 1 customer support at TiVo offered me a 3 month credit, but I knew more could be gained if I stayed polite and asked for the supervisor.  You can too.  In most instances, tier 1 CSRs not only are limited as to what they can do, they cannot see all aspects of your account on their CRM systems (computers).  Those higher up in the chain at a call center will have a richer picture.
  5. Do tell them how pleased you have been with their service and for how long.  Most companies never want to hear from you again after you have signed up, because additional contacts add to cost.  At the same time, keeping you happy and retaining you as a customer is far cheaper than acquiring a new customer.

Bottom line?  You accomplish more by being polite and persistent than you do by getting angry.

What about you?  Do you have a customer service story to tell?