Monday, October 30, 2006

To get better service, get a name

Getting good customer service from a company, especially by telephone, can be a challenge these days. But here's a piece of advice, courtesy of my father, that can literally pay off:

Always get a name.

A name isn't typically the first thing I'm thinking about if I have to call some place like the phone company or my bank. It's usually because I'm unhappy about some incorrect charge or item on my statement and I want it fixed, and pronto. As soon as I can get a live voice on the other end of the phone--after punching "0" as many times as necessary to get around the automated service menu--I jump right into what's been done to me, and what the company should do to make it right.

Sometimes the first service representative I talk to can fix the problem, sometimes he can't. But here's why pausing my monologue long enough to get that person's name is important.

Establishes a relationship
Starting your call with "Hi, I'm NAME...who am I speaking with?" takes away some of the anonymity on both ends of the phone. A name helps the service rep (and you) remember that you're dealing with a real person, not just some faceless voice that you'll quickly forget as soon as you hang up.

Provides accountability
Information is only as good as its source. Getting the service rep's name makes him accountable to the information he's providing. If he's promised to remove the fee you're questioning, look into your issue further, etc., a name is essential to follow up on the conversation for a status report or if you're not satisfied with the result.

What's more, talking to different people can mean getting different information. If you call back about a specific problem and speak with a second or third service representative, you may get two or three differing perspectives on how it should be resolved. With a name to refer to, you won't be as vulnerable to the "You must have been mistaken" or "We'd never tell you that" defenses that bad-service companies employ.

Saves time and frustration
Having to explain your problem over and over again to multiple service people is time-consuming and frustrating. Working with the same person builds a history of what the issue is, what's been tried to fix it, and what else needs to be done. If you've ever called for technical support on your computer, you know what I mean.

Introducing yourself and getting a person's name isn't just good manners. It can be good business, and wise consumerism.

"It's Just Money" hosts this week's Carnival
Hungry to learn more tips and ideas to help you manage your personal finances better? Then check out this week's Carnival of Personal Finance at the blog, It's Just Money. A blog "carnival" is an easy way to discover other personal finance blogs that you might find helpful; it's essentially a compilation of dozens of recent blog articles all in one place. Check it out when you get a chance.

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