This is one of the most common questions I get from readers: When do I give up on dealing with a customer service representative and ask to speak with a supervisor? There are actually two answers. The first applies to phone calls; the second is for email correspondence.
Let’s talk phone calls first.
In this day and age of “no” you’re likely to get frustrated with a script-reading call center worker very quickly, particularly if he or she is doing his job correctly — which is to say, reading a script. Even so, asking for a supervisor may not necessarily work. I’ll get to the reasons why in a minute.
Here’s when to consider politely asking for a supervisor.
When you need a “fresh” set of eyes. Sometimes, your case just needs a second opinion — someone to look at it objectively. Say you’ve spent three hours on “hold” to get something fixed that should have taken just five minutes. You’re asking for a modest credit in consideration for your inconvenience. The employee who just helped you may not feel you’re entitled to anything because he or she had to go through the process with you. But a supervisor might.
When it’s something a call center employee can’t offer. Waiving fees and other requirements, or bending the rules in any way, can often only be done at the supervisory level. Your reasons for asking for a special allowance might be terrific, but at the end of the conversation, a customer service associate may not be able to help. Time to call a supervisor.
When the representative can’t communicate effectively. This may happen because of language and culture — particularly in an overseas call center — or it just may be a general failure to communicate. Remember, these are people on the other end of the line, and we don’t always get along. Politely ask for a supervisor or end the call.
Even if you request a supervisor, you may not get one. One common practice at phone centers is to transfer calls designated for a manager to a co-worker, who will just re-iterate what the previous employee has said. That’s the ol’ call center merry-go-round.
The other problem is that increasingly, supervisors are being given less power to resolve problems. They’ve become little more than overpaid middle managers who can do little more than apologize for their ability to not help you.
If you’re getting the runaround by phone, hang up and try an email. More on emails and customer service soon.
(Photo: the bmag/Flickr Creative Commons)