Friday, December 31, 2010

Call customer service and score a better deal with a human

While it's generally easier and more efficient to handle basic customer service requests from a company's website or automated phone system, sometimes it's a lot more effective to call an actual real live human being.  After reading a very insightful book recently, "Your Call Is Not That Important To Us," about the customer service industry, and having an overwhelmingly positive experience replacing an expensive Verizon smartphone that I had lost a few days ago, I am a convert to human-to-human communication when resolving problems. 

But first, here is my experience with each company "touch point" and third-party option which led to my eventual success and satisfaction.  First, I pondered all of my options:  eBay, Amazon, visit the Verizon store near my office, visit their website, go through an authorized retailer like Wirefly, or plea with Verizon's customer service over the phone.  Their results:

1. eBay -- new and used equipment was expensive and I have had bad experiences buying through them
2. Amazon -- pretty much the same price
3. Verizon store (option 1) -- full retail replacement --  would you like a pint of blood, too?
4. Verizon store (option 2) -- better, they wanted to switch my upgrade eligibility discount with my wife's and still charge, what I thought, was too much
4. Website -- confusing to navigate the "replacement" options they were offering, such as certified pre-owned models, and still more than I wanted to pay
5. Wirefly-- they wouldn't understand me and nor would I understand them over the phone (this is a good website if you are a new, or renewing customer, not if you are trying to replace your lost phone).  Be wary of outsourced customer service (see book for details).
6. Customer Service Representative--wow!  they made my day.  Not only did I get one replacement phone, I got two with a promotion they were offering, and after rebates and potentially selling the unused phone, I might just make money on the deal.  One drawback: I was forced to buy handset replacement insurance, which is I think a scam, but will save a headache the next time I lose the phone.

The takeaway here is that it can definitely pay to call the customer service number directly and plea your case.  Reps have the power to do things and override what a website selling to you can do, and even what store employees can do.  It's a good lesson for other customer service transactions, too.