The combination of automated call systems and endless hold Muzak is downright enraging. Few things are more frustrating than having to explain your problem to multiple people and finding that none of them have the power to help you. And unfortunately, whether it's to cancel your internet service, get help with a technical issue on your laptop, or ask about an unexpected charge, most of us have to call the dreaded customer service hotline at some point.
Take a deep breath. It's going to be OK. We are here to help with tips on how to call customer service without all the stress, or at least with a bit less.
Table of Contents
- Do You Really Need to Call?
- Consider Text Chat
- How to Find the Right Number
- Be Prepared
- The Best Times to Call
- Use a Callback Service
- How to Get a Real Human
- Keep Calm and Be Nice
- Take Notes
- Know When to Escalate
- Climbing the Ladder
- Complain on Social Media
- Lodge a Complaint
- Leave a Review
Do You Really Need to Call?
Before you subject yourself to the potential torture, ask yourself if there might be a better way. Maybe you can find an answer without calling. Check the company website and look for the FAQ or a forum. Try Googling your specific issue to see if there’s an easy answer. You may find a way to do it without having to go through the stress of calling the company.
Consider Text Chat
Those live chat windows that pop up on most websites now can prove more effective than a phone call. With text chat, you can gather your thoughts and write them out clearly. You don't need to hold a phone to your ear, there are no audio issues or accents to decipher, and you have a record of the conversation at the end. If you're having trouble finding chat support on the company's website, try Googling to see whether the company offers it.
How to Find the Right Number
Sometimes the only option is to call, but it's worth digging around to find the best number. Several directories, such as Dial a Human and Contact Help, list numbers for companies and try to connect you with a person. Get Human also offers the best numbers, information on wait times, and useful advice, though the premium service it offers has received mixed reviews.
Your call will go a lot more smoothly if you prep before you pick up the phone. Write down your problem, the most important points, and the resolution you want. If you have a technical issue, include the device model and everything you have tried so far. If you are upgrading or seeking a better deal, research sales and prices. Be clear and concise about what your problem is and what you want from customer service. It might even be a good idea to write a short script to help you stay on track during the call.
Always have your account details, credit card, order numbers, and any other information you think is relevant ready. If you are making a warranty claim, investigate what you must provide and collect it before calling. Onerous reporting requirements are common, so do your research to avoid having to make multiple calls. It may be worth checking forums for advice from other customers who have made similar calls to learn what worked and what didn't.
The Best Times to Call
It seems every company is experiencing higher than normal call volumes nowadays; lengthy wait times are the norm. You can minimize the delay by picking the right time to call. The best bet is to call early. Wait times are shorter before noon, but 7 am is the best time to call according to Talkdesk, which also reveals that Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to call, and Mondays are the worst.
Use a Callback Service
Some companies offer a callback option so you don’t have to wait on hold. We hope this will become standard practice, but it’s not universal yet. If the company does not offer a callback option, consider a third-party app or service to queue for you. We haven't tried these yet, but the aforementioned Get Human (iOS and Android) offers this service, as does FastCustomer and Do Not Pay. Just watch out for premium charges and be aware that these services do not always work. In the UK, you may have better luck with WeQ4U (iOS and Android).
How to Get a Real Human
No one likes dealing with automated systems, but they are not universally awful. Sometimes the quickest way to get where you need to go is to listen to the options and choose the right one, so don’t automatically skip this step. But if you are having trouble, you can usually press a specific key to get through to a person—it's generally 0 or #. If a single press doesn’t work, try multiple key presses. Saying “operator,” “customer service,” or “representative” will sometimes get a person on the line.
Keep Calm and Be Nice
When you finally get through to a person, remember to stay calm and be polite. They may work for the company you have an issue with, but they are not responsible for your problem. Ask how they are and use their name if they give it. Explain your problem clearly, but don’t take too much time, because call center workers are strongly encouraged to deal with calls swiftly. It’s smart to try to elicit sympathy and get them on your side.
Patiently follow the directions they give you. Remember that they may have no choice but to work through a script or specific troubleshooting steps.
Always ask for a ticket or reference number so you can speed up the process if you have to call back. If you get through to someone helpful and they can’t resolve your problem on the spot, get their number or email so you can deal with them directly in the future. Note any pertinent details or promises. You may even want to consider recording the call, though you should check with local laws before doing this.
Know When to Escalate
The first person you speak with will often have limited power to help you. If you have exhausted your options, and they tell you there is nothing else they can do, it may be time to escalate. Rather than asking to speak to a manager or supervisor, it may be better to ask if any further escalation is possible.
In some situations, the threat to cancel a service can get you through to the retention department, which typically has the most power to make you offers, but you must be willing to follow through with a cancellation before you do this.
Climbing the Ladder
If you aren’t getting anywhere with customer service, you may get better results by going to the top. Start by finding the CEO’s name. It's likely listed on an About page on the company website, or you can search on LinkedIn. You can find email addresses for many CEOs online, or you can take a chance and try their name @ whatever the company's name is. If other email addresses are available, then you can work out the correct syntax.
Once you have found the CEO’s contact information—or another executive's—send them a polite and concise email explaining what happened, why you aren’t satisfied, and what you’d like them to do about it. The CEO probably won’t read it, but they often have an assistant or a team that deals with problems faster and has more power than standard customer service.
Publicly Complain on Social Media
When you’re having trouble getting through to customer support or you can’t get the outcome you want, sometimes going to Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or another social media platform to publicly complain about the company in question is sometimes effective. Most companies feel compelled to respond swiftly to public criticism. As always, be polite and concise about the problem. Don't be rude.
Lodge a Complaint
If you tried everything without satisfaction, then you should complain. Most companies have a specific complaints procedure. Sometimes it will trigger an investigation, and maybe even a different resolution, though you should not hold your breath.
You may prefer to file a complaint with a third party, like the Better Business Bureau, which can help to mediate and possibly elicit a better response from the company. If your issue is with financial services, then try the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Folks in the UK having trouble with energy or communications providers can contact the Ombudsman Services.
Leave a Review
Whatever the outcome of your customer service call, it's a good idea to leave a review. You can highlight poor customer service, and a negative review will often stir companies into further action. On the flip side, make sure that you praise positive experiences to highlight great customer service and encourage companies to do better.