Creative complaining and bargaining by phone

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Friday 2 September 1664

..I took a great deal of pains this morning in the thorough understanding hereof, and hope that I know the truth of our case, though it be but bad, yet better than to run spending money and all to no purpose. However, I will inquire a little more…

Pepys had a difference with his father over a debt and I rather admire his painstaking effort to make sure the other party understands the nature of the debt in all its aspects.

I find that when I am complaining about something as I not infrequently do I’m in a much stronger position if I have appraised myself of all the factors. The person or agent who I’m phoning properly has to deal with people complaining every hour of the day and they are much better at it than I am. What I normally do now in this age of computers is to ask people if they can look at my records onscreen before I start talking otherwise they will just respond genetically. With banks etc.  you have to spend half your time proving that you are the person you say they are for health and safety, Social Security, terroristic reasons goodness knows what but there is such a huge amount of identity theft they have probably been driven to it.

The other thing I have learned is to assume that they want to help you. You tend to get back what you give out. I am always at my computer when I speak on the phone and write down the name of the person, what I say, what they said and when I can expect some action. These days, everything is recorded so we’re told for quality control, staff training, amusement, legal liability, self protection and goodness knows what else. Whether anyone actually listens to these recordings is another question.

You could actually tell the person on the end of the line that you don’t want to complain that you’re just trying to find a solution to what you see as a problem. It may not in fact be a problem just a misunderstanding. Just to sort, you could start instead of launching into a tirade tell the person that you are excited by the product or service but things do not seem to have turned out as you expected.

Unfortunately this does not work with robotic service agencies particularly those from Indian call centres who start by apologising for anything they have done or might do. There should be a ban on people using my formal name and the beginning of each sentence. Once we have established who-it is unnecessary to say Mr Snellgrove this, Mr Snellgrove that.  I also find particularly irritating the question,  “do you mind if I call you Brian?” Within reason I don’t mind what people call me once our identities have been established.

I’ve also found it quite good to have a little touch of humour but they have to be careful how they reply because their comments are being recorded so I don’t say daft things is this just wastes time.

No way have I ever got anywhere by threatening. If a company is unscrupulous they are well used to that and you will get as good as you give and probably better. They can either help you or they cannot. If you have explained your situation you will draw the best out of them.

What about when you call back three or four times and no one returns your call. You might well ask them if there is someone else you should be speaking to.  I have heard of success when you ask to speak to the manager but I wonder what happened beforehand in order to make this necessary.

Most companies have zero tolerance towards swearing and shouting and once you get a black mark against you there is very little chance of getting taken seriously.

If you want to vent your anger then why not do so with a friend, the dog, the nearest tree, the four walls of your toilet, and then when you are more  relaxed then you can make the call.

I have already spoken about irritating phone habits like saying ” what did you say your name was” when I had not even told them or “can I ask you a quick question”. My response would be, “how fast you speak is up to you and  I don’t know if you’re able to ask the question but why not try?” I suspect my sarcasm would be lost so what is the point

There is no harm in bargaining because under certain circumstances salespeople are authorised to meet the customer half way. Mobile phone companies are quite good at this at giving you sweeteners to keep you with them. This is necessary because of the competitiveness of the market. I’m thinking of a conversation with BT, that is British Telecom, where I felt I was overpaying and I was put on another tariff which saved me £30 a month.

I have not mentioned so-called live chat which is normally with someone with an unpronounceable name. Hi my name is Asheretta how may I help you today.  You may find there is a considerable pause between you writing a question of getting the answer, and this is because they are dealing with many questions simultaneously. This you will find irritating but since they are in Pakistani, Bangladesh, India, or Mexico there is not much you can do.

I could have a further rant about websites with so-called help lines. Many of them are far from helpful. You type in your question, which is inevitably not covered by the Q and A, and you get a selection of possible answers none of which have any relevance to the problem you have. you then have no option but to write, then get the same answer back by someone who has used automated algorithms  and procedures to give you the answer. As regards for telephone help, expect to wait a long time and remember you are the 75th person to speak to the poor old member of staff who probably hasn’t had a coffee break in three hours and is looking at the clock to see when they can sign off.  Do have some sympathy for the these people and I always try to be positive and good-humoured here. Some people asked very dumb questions indeed when it comes to anything related to computers.

CUSTOMER: “I don’t have a ‘P'”.
TECH SUPPORT: “On your keyboard, Bob.”
CUSTOMER: “What do you mean?”
TECH SUPPORT: ” ‘P’ on your keyboard, Bob.”
CUSTOMER: “I’m not going to do that!

Timing is important. A rather irate potential garden customer rang me at 8 PM on the bank holiday evening asking me why I had not responded to her. I was engaged in something else and simply told her I could not help and put the phone down. It would have been so nice if she had said “I’m sorry to trouble you out of hours but…..”  I really can’t be bothered any more with people who don’t know how to use the phone. Maybe it is my age but why should I have my day spoiled by people who lack the basic rules of communication.

To summarise, you are more likely to sabotage yourself and get nowhere if you don’t follow the rules.

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