CUSTOMER SERVICE

What they don’t want you to know can hurt you

Filipchuk Oleg/Shutterstock
Filipchuk Oleg/Shutterstock
For several years, I’ve operated a customer service wiki, an underground website which contains the names, emails and addresses of company executives who can help consumers like you.

In the early days, I researched and published these names alone and at considerable risk, but now I’m lucky to work with a team of volunteers who make sure every name and address is up-to-date. (By the way, you can see the entire list of customer service executives here.)

And that brings me to today’s cautionary tale about customer service, which may inform your next buying decision.
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How to stop the customer service apocalypse of 2014

Stokkete/Shutterstock
Stokkete/Shutterstock
When you spend most of your waking hours advocating for consumers, it’s easy to lose your sense of perspective. Complaints pour in, often hundreds per day. I can’t help but feel like the customer-service apocalypse is imminent.

My New Year’s resolution is simple: Stop Servicemaggendon by putting what really matters in my consumer advocacy crosshairs and keep the discourse civil and fair.

What matters? Well, from my point of view, it’s obvious that we’re halfway down a long slide into the customer-service toilet, with only a little pipe to go before we’re flushed out to the sewer. How we approach this precipitous decline matters. It requires a clear-headed, well-reasoned and polite discussion — otherwise the problem could get worse.
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The real reason legacy airlines are awful

Because they can.

That’s my conclusion after finishing the missing emails from April and May. America’s legacy airlines are awful because they can be awful, and because we let them.

The graph (above) comes directly from data provided by the authoritative American Customer Service Index. Don’t confuse it with one of those incomprehensible charts posted on an airline fanblog. This is the real deal — it’s the last decade of service scores.
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3 reasons social media matters more than you think

Alexandr/Shutterstock
Alexandr/Shutterstock

It’s true, social media fatigue is starting to set in across the Internet.

Consumers say they’re tired of receiving useless information through the latest and greatest social network and wary of giving up their personal data. A recent Pew survey, for example, says as much as 38 percent of Facebook users plan to use the service less this year.

But here’s one good reason you shouldn’t delete your Facebook or Twitter account yet: Companies are paying close attention to what you say.

Closer than you can imagine.
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The art of persuasion: 5 things you can say to get better service

Voronin/Shutterstock
Voronin/Shutterstock
It isn’t the horse that makes the wagon go. It’s the carrot you put in front of his nose.

That’s an old Russian proverb, and it reminds me how customer service people sometimes won’t go out of their way to help you unless you persuade them to.

Sure, a true professional will always do the job as required. But don’t you want better service? Here are some time-tested phrases you can use to get it.
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Are you being fed a line? 5 secrets for breaking through the script

Marcinski/Shutterstock
Marcinski/Shutterstock
Talk to me.

That’s all customers like you want when they call a company. They want someone to talk to them.

But corporations don’t always talk back. Last week, I mentioned the second-generation form letters many consumers were getting. Turns out there’s a little more to the story.

For the better part of the last decade, large companies have scripted many of their most common call-center responses. What does that mean? Well basically, when you contact a company with a question, the agent can type in the issue into their computer and receive a “scripted” response that will answer the question. Then they read it back to you.
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