One of the most exasperating things we all have to do is extract information or promises from people (customer service reps, in this case), who may have an agenda of their own. And that agenda may be contrary to ours.
For example, Brad used for work for a top Internet company that you've all heard of. When a subscriber called to cancel his membership he was immediately shuffled to the "customer retention" department, where skilled script readers were empowered to do what they must to keep subscribers from jumping ship. Many people melted under this pressure and stayed on, even though they had good reasons for leaving.
Yet sometimes we have to persevere, and deal with these reps until we achieve the resolution that's in our own best interest. Whether you're calling reps at a company like eBay, a vendor or a shipper, you can find yourself on a merry-go-round that's dizzying.
We were once due a significant rebate ($1,200) on four smart phones as part of an incentive for signing with a new carrier. Even though we followed all the rules and were entitled to the rebate, all manner of "customer service" representative kept putting up roadblocks, making it increasingly challenging to get what was due us. We finally did get the rebates, but we sure felt we had earned that money several times over.
Whether you're calling reps at a company like eBay, a vendor or a shipper, you can find yourself on a merry-go-round that's dizzying
One seller's story, in his own words
For insights on working with customer service reps we turned to longtime e-commerce merchant Andy Mowery of Debnroo. Now, Andy refuses to back down in the face of a challenge. He's always up to the task when customer service reps challenge him, and here he shares his best secret for protecting yourself and turning the tables when necessary.
Take it away, Andy.
Mowery: So, I think I've been effective [in working with reps] in some ways, but in other ways not as much. The fine line is dealing with the folks who listen to "fire the customer" advice. There are some who, just for pushing back, want to take off your head—and have the power to do so. And, I've got lots of experience with that, fortunately or unfortunately.
I think one controversial subject that may or may not be a good idea is recording conversations. There are some places where you can only talk by phone, and then what becomes reality depends on what reps—despite what they've promised—put in their "notes."
Your word against theirs
I just had an issue with my cable company, and decided to keep calling in until the next rep could tell me successfully what the prior rep promised to put in the notes. I kept doing this until I finally got one who could tell me what needed to be added without me asking a leading question.
The expectation of privacy isn't really the issue, it's the expectation that a verbal conversation is a place to tell a bald-faced lie and get away with it
Why record these calls? Because often these types of firms like to train reps to play the "Well, we don't know what was said in the last call" tape. Well, sure we do. You say you are recording the conversation, so let's go back to your recording. Oh, you aren't allowed to go back, yourself? OK. I'll wait for the person who can do so. Oh, I'm not allowed to talk to them? OK, well, then would you mind if I made my own recording so that when I call back for the sixth time, we don't have to speculate about whether I did or did not speak to your company about this issue?
It's a thorny issue, as many people have a negative reaction to recording calls—even if you are in the right. I like to remind people that pretty much all of our conversations are now recorded, whether we like it or not. So, the expectation of privacy isn't really the issue, it's the expectation that a verbal conversation is a place to tell a bald-faced lie and get away with it.
The case for technology
Now, presuming that I'm not recommending recording for things like extortion, there's another perfectly legitimate reason to record calls. It's called note-taking. If you send me an email, I can save it. If you send me a letter, I can file it. But, if we talk by phone, I'm only allowed to use a 20th-Century device to have a record. Why is that? No, really, why is that? Why can't I use technology that allows me to accurately take notes for no other purpose than to be accurate when I am referencing the interaction later?
And, the answer for most people in the U.S. is that you can, in fact, do this. It's just got a stigma attached. Most states allow recording, if at least one party is privy to the recording (and that can be you). And, if your purpose and use is actually note-taking, well, then it's not really all that evil of a practice. Playing the recording back to a bad customer service rep, however, can have consequences.
Whether I have a recording or not, I can write down what you said, look it up and tell if you were lying
So, sometimes I simply say I am in possession of a recording, particularly if I am dealing with a person I've already caught in a lie or suspect that I've caught. The reaction is all that you need to know where to go. Anger is guilt, that's the red flag I'm looking for. Liars hate to be surprise busted, and customer service reps lie as a matter of habit.
Come out swinging
I like to gather my facts and then come back better informed for Round 2. It usually allows me to point out things they have said that are not factually correct and, therefore, they need to address my concern honestly. Sometimes this does work.
Other times, however, these guys will put something in the notes to warn others. When I call in the next time, and they say "I need to make sure you are not recording this," I just reply that no matter what I say, I may or may not be doing so. Therefore, it's my advice to them to keep it strictly business, do not abuse me, and definitely don't say something that isn't true. Whether I have a recording or not, I can write down what you said, look it up and tell if you were lying. So, the recording only ensures that I'm not having a memory or listening issue.
Schepp: Thanks Andy.