A few months ago, I received a letter from our ISP Charter Communications. The good news was that everyone in our area who subscribes to their High Speed Internet was getting upgraded to the 5 Meg service and we would be surfing [I forget how many] times faster than dial-up. The bad news was that this was going to cost us yet anther $10.00 per month – an astronomical $57.99 per month. But the letter indicated that we had no other options, and our area being quite remote – we can’t get Verizon DSL here – we had no choice but to take it or go with our local wireless service which is much slower, costs more, and comes with a $200 set-up fee. Since we rely on the internet for all of our business, dial-up is out of the question. So we bit the bullet and took it. And I cringed every time I paid our Charter bill these last few months.
But this morning, I went to the Charter site for an entirely different purpose: checking out the options on one of the most un-frugal things there are – cable TV. I know I shouldn’t be doing that because nobody really needs cable, but I recently got hooked on a few shows that I’ve discovered on Hulu (House M.D., The Office and Battlestar Galactica) and am itching to see the re-runs of all the past seasons I’ve missed. Of course, I was just looking, with no intention to buy because when it comes down to it, it really is a terrible waste of money. But anyways, when I clicked on Add/Upgrade Services, I saw that there were 3 High Speed Internet promotional plans available to my area – $19.99, $24.99, and $44.99 a month. I decided to get on customer service chat for some clarification on the plans available to my area, and 20 minutes later I had saved $180.
The plan was this: I could get on the 10 Meg High Speed plan (upgrade) at $24.99 a month for a promotional period of 6 months. There are no contracts so if I happen to have to move (which is a possibility but hopefully not – knock on wood), and there are no fees for upgrading or downgrading so I can just re-downgrade to the 5 Meg service at the end of the promotional period. While it’s not a permanent fix, it’s at least a 6-month fix, and one that’ll save us $30 a month which comes out to a total $180.
All I have to do is remember to contact them again in November and have them downgrade us to our original plan. Or maybe if we’re really lucky they’ll have another promotion for us then! So, if you think you might be paying too much for a service – any service – phone, cable, internet, insurance – do a little research and/or call your service provider (Further reading: Insurance Matters: The Cost of Complacency.) Companies are always running promotions to bring in new customers or keep old ones, so chances are probably good that you’ll be able to save somewhere. Even if it’s just a few dollars for a few months, it’ll add up.
Tips for Receiving Better Customer Service
Obviously, these are tips for when you have engaged a live customer service representative after bypassing the robots. In the interest of readability, I may sometimes use the impersonal pronoun “they” instead of typing out “he/she”. I know it is grammatically incorrect, but “he/she”, “him/her”, “his/her” can get old.
- Firstly, try to avoid dealing with customer service when you are: hungry, thirsty, tired or sleepy as these states can cause you to be less focused and coherent, and possibly cranky.
- Also, allow yourself plenty of time. If you try to squeeze a call into a short amount of time (i.e. while standing in line at the post office, the last 10 minutes of your lunch break, etc.) it is likely that you will not get the best out of your call. You will be in a hurry to get off the phone (or computer) and might lose out on an otherwise better option, or be impatient and lose your temper and making your customer service agent less willing to help you. Give yourself at least 20-30 minutes and try to make the call in a quiet place where you are least likely to be interrupted or bothered.
- Use Live Chat customer service whenever available for the following reasons:
- It is easier to keep details straight when you can see them in front of you.
- It is also easier if you are dealing with customer service that might be outsourced to another country, or even a customer service rep located in the U.S. but who has an accent or regional dialect that might be difficult to understand.
- At the end of the chat, do a select all (ctrl+a), copy (ctrl+c) and paste (ctrl+v) the text from your entire chat session onto a word document file for later reference.
- Make sure you note the customer service rep’s name or ID number, the date and time of your chat session. This might make it a little easier if you need additional customer service later one and you and refer to the session.
- Greet your customer service representative. A simple “hello” (and maybe even a “how are you”) will start the conversation or chat off on a friendly note.
- Remember that you are speaking to a real person who will respond to the way you speak to him/her. If you are nice, chances are they will be nice in return. If you’re not nice, chances are they will be too. Having worked in customer service, I know this for a fact.
- If using internet chat, try to use proper spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation. It may take a few seconds longer, but it will make your messages easier to read, which is important for both courtesy, accuracy and professionalism. Yes, even if you’re the customer, professionalism on your part will help them to take you seriously and encourage them to serve you better.
- Do a little prior research about the company’s current plans and promotions. If anyone you know has received a promotional deal from the same company, mention it to them and ask if you can also receive the same promotion or something similar.
- If you are looking for a plan that costs the lowest, be sure to mention it to them. They might sometimes only offer you a plan or package that sells you more service than you need. If you only want one specific service, be sure to mention it to them.
- When offered a promotion, make sure you get all the facts. Don’t just ask them if there is anything else you need to know, but rather ask them to clarify each point for you:
- Are there any additional fees for switching plans permanently or temporarily (if you’ll be switching back at the end of a promotional period)?
- Are there any contracts or obligations and for how long?
- Is there an early cancellation fee? (In case you are dissatisfied with the new service, if you have to move etc.)
- Are there any service limits different from your current plan?
- At the end of the conversation thank them for their help, say goodbye and even wish them a nice day. This ensures that both of you leave the conversation on a positive note which could affect the next time you deal with this company. Even if you never deal with the same rep again, if every customer was polite to every customer service rep, then customer service in general might be a lot more pleasant.
- Remember to make a note on your calender if you are receiving an offer that requires cancellation or downgrade at the end of a promotional period. If you use Google Calendar, Mozilla Sunbird or Microsoft Outlook, get on your calendar as soon as you get off the phone or chat and set yourself a reminder to alert you a few days before the end of the promotional period. Canceling on time (instead of canceling and re-switching after you have been permanently enrolled or charged for the new plan) will save you a lot of headache, time and money.
Now go and save yourself some money.