5 tricks to speedy customer service

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5 ways to get good customer service

No one likes endless wait times to talk to a customer service representative. Nor is it fun to wind through a confusing automated phone system to actually get to the person who can fix your problem. Particularly maddening are the robotic agents that delay or block human communications.

Learn how to cut through the red tape to get the customer service you need.

Tweet it

Most big companies monitor Twitter for mentions of their names and will respond to your complaint if you tweet about it.

When Jenni Fleck Jones had a complaint about how Home Depot installed her dishwasher, her husband called customer service first, “getting nowhere,” she says. “I sent out a tweet about how disappointed I was, and we had a response within minutes.”

For a more direct route, find a company’s Twitter handle and comment to that company directly.

Opt for Spanish

If John Leahy needs to speak to a live person, he chooses the Spanish option if there is one.

“I usually do this for airlines and other travel-related needs. I use this option a lot during holiday busy times like Christmas,” he says. “Usually the lines are a lot shorter.”

It helps if you speak Spanish, of course, but Leahy says you don’t need to be fluent to use this customer service option.

Go rotary

Rotary phones don’t work on automated phone systems, so a lot of systems will kick you to a live agent if you don’t push any buttons.

Teresa Mears doesn’t have a rotary phone, but acted like she did when making an appointment to renew her driver’s license. “I called and went through the prompts. I got to the end and was cut off without being able to make an appointment,” she says. “So I called again and didn’t press any numbers. I was able to get through and make an appointment with a live person.”

Live chat

Emily Mendell didn’t bother calling Apple when she wanted to buy an iPad right after the product launched. She chose Apple Live Chat instead, and an online rep gave her an answer instantly.

“I got someone who told me that Best Buy carries them — and I got it that same day,” she says.

Live chats also give you a record of what the customer service rep says, which isn’t available if you talk to someone over the phone (unless you take copious notes).

Go to the top

When a customer service agent told Kim Fernandez that a lifetime warranty on brass kitchen knobs covered only the functionality of the fixtures, not the finish (which on her fixtures started to peel), she e-mailed the company president.

“I sent him a note explaining what happened and how disappointed we were,” she says. “An hour later, I got an e-mail back.” By the following day, the company sent her enough new knobs “to do my kitchen twice over,” she says.

The president’s e-mail address might not be readily available online. Fernandez suggests finding the company’s corporate or investor Web site and determining the e-mail formula from a press release. (Does the protocol involve using a first name or initial, a period or an underscore between first and last name, etc.?)

Additional resources

The old saying that “honey gets you further than vinegar” may have some merit, particularly when you’re lodging a complaint. But knowledge goes a long way to resolving life’s many other challenges. These stories can help brighten your financial picture.