7 Tips For Dealing With Customer Service, According To A Former Phone Rep

For 11 miserable months, I was armed with a phone headset — and not much else — as a customer support advocate at a popular TV and movie streaming company (I'll let you guess which one). While I enjoyed the company's fun office parties, free food, and game room culture, I also endured the over-the-phone wrath of so many customers who just wanted to kick back and stream in peace. (Too bad credit card issues with their subscription fees, poor Internet speeds, and device malfunctions often threw a wrench in those plans.) But guess who often got the blame instead? Little ol' me on the other end of the phone line. If there's anything I learned from that year, it's how to swiftly and effectively deal with customer service.

It's too easy to lose your cool and freak out on the peon who's trying to help and not even get what you wanted in the first place. I actually had an irrational fear of phones for months after I quit being a customer service punching bag, because so many people freaked out on me.

"When someone calls a customer service agent, these negative emotions are projected onto the customer service rep so that the customer can feel ‘good’ again and stop feeling ‘bad,’" Los Angeles-based psychotherapist Aimee Martinez tells Bustle. "Since it is easy for people to contact customer service, they feel it should be just as easy for the rep to fix their problem and/or resolve the issue."

Don't be that person. In the time since I've quit that job, I've followed the following rules for getting what I want from customer service — and now I'm passing them onto you. Use them wisely and get what you need.

1. Find The Right Phone Number With GetHuman

Some sites hide the phone number on purpose, because they know no one calls for a good reason. The company doesn't want you to call them as much as you don't want to be on hold with them. Check GetHuman for the right number to get to a live person.

Sure, some companies offer chat or e-mail customer service, which is nice in the off hours, but in my experience — on both sides of it — it's just so much easier to talk to someone than go back and forth with a rep who is probably copying and pasting boiler plate responses (I know this because I used to write them for everyone to use, ahem).

2. Be Prepared

The written word speaks louder than any yelling you could do. Have all your paperwork, account numbers, bank statements, and anything else ready. Believe me, starting off the call with "I have a suspicious transaction on my bank account, here's the number" gets you further along than "You stole my money!" (Actual words I had been told at least five times a day while working in customer service.)

3. Check The Help Pages Before You Call

Troubleshooting calls can typically last upwards of about an hour, which sucks for both you and the customer service rep (believe me, I've been there). If you try some of the steps on your own — turning the device off and on is always No. 1 — this saves you time and the rep won't even try taking a condescending tone with you if you've already restarted your computer/device before calling. It'll turn a potentially frustrating call into one that could be possibly pleasant.

4. Ask For What You Want

Be assertive, but not too stern. If you want a refund for crappy service, say it. Want to cancel? Spit it out until the rep presses cancel (and get a confirmation e-mail or number that it's been done). My favorite calls were ones where the customer wasted no time and knew exactly what they needed done. I know it's hard to know sometimes, but you definitely do have a goal in mind when you call, whether you know it or not.

Customer service reps are trained to get off the phone as soon as possible and take control of meandering phone calls, so if you don't clearly state what you want, they'll give you what you think you want — and it probably won't be even close to what you originally wanted. And you know what that means — you'll need to make another call, wait on hold, and then explain the situation to a whole other person.

5. Don't Take Your Frustration Out On The Rep

I've been yelled at by a wife who couldn't remember their zip code because her husband just deployed, a man who struggled with English and was tired of being made fun of, and lastly, a dyslexic man who just wanted to watch dubbed anime without having to struggle to read subtitles. Hell, I still sometimes lose it on customer service folks and I worked as one.

But you can combat that frustration and that long wait-time. "If there is a long wait time until your call will be answered, put your phone on speaker and do something relaxing/meditative to pass the time like cleaning, stretching, writing, or doodling," says Martinez.

6. Remember That Reps Do Have Some Power

If you want a refund for unsatisfactory service, ask for one. Were you promised something and not given it? Ask for it. Were you supposed to be awarded free time due to a certain promotion? Call and ask for it. The customer service department and its reps often need to make good on the company's mistakes — but only if you make the call and specifically ask for it.

7. Appreciate Great Service

Look, a good amount of customer service reps are idiots, but a good amount of them actually care and want to help you. You can commend the ones that are fantastic with what's usually called a "positive escalation."

Customer service leads or managers usually send out e-mails to the whole department or hand out the equivalent of gold stars when this does happen, making it quite the ego boost. Quite frankly, the job sucks, but being helpful and being recognized for it can really make your day.

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