I often hear from people who are so frustrated by an attempt to work out a problem with a big company that they are left feeling victimized and helpless. Often, people simply give up, sacrificing their own (or their company's) hard-earned money rather than visit the feeling of helplessness that comes from navigating a bureaucracy.
I know from long experience that most of these problems can be worked out given a little time and a lot of patience. But I realized recently -- while watching my son play with his Christmas presents -- that getting through customer service is a lot like a computer game: You encounter allies and opponents along the way -- and you have to learn to recognize which is which; the goal is always to get to the next level; and the solution comes only after a great deal of persistence, skill, and determination. The weapons in this game are calm, patience, and the phrase "May I speak to your supervisor?"
Customer service is almost always tiered. So as you get passed up the line (in response to that key phrase), you increasingly encounter people who have more power and tools to solve your problem. And as you move up the levels, you get closer to winning.
Mark wrote recently to share his recent success at this game. I think his letter illustrates just how well you can do at this game -- if you keep your cool and play well.
"I didn't want to have a Gripe," he writes, "I do. But, like A Christmas Carol it has a happy ending."
"Those of us with cell service from Qwest are learning that the company's current service agreement with Sprint is ending. This means they won't be using Sprint towers to handle their service. Not only are they moving to Verizon, it appears they are getting out of the cellular service business altogether in February, handling only billing for Verizon from then on. They are doing a number of things right. For example, Verizon is offering free replacement phones of the type you had as a Qwest customer, even if that phone is extra-cost upgrade. They have a very helpful migration team to smooth the move.
"On the down side, in November, my bill unexpectedly jumped $40. Scanning through it, my base cell service went from $89.99 to $129.99. A phone call to Qwest Customer Service revealed that, as a prelude to the switch, Qwest canceled all the grandfathered cell contracts. My plan allowed me to have five phones, which I needed at one time. I'm now only using three. Had I known about the increase, I would have switched to a plan with fewer minutes for the same $89.99."