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…and how to avoid bad customer service in the first place.

Photo credit: arycogre

Yes, it’s quite a basic principal but if you want to ensure that you will recieve good customer service in the first place you need to do your homework.

It’s no surprise that those companies that provide the cheapest products are often those with the worst reputation. For ISPs, see O2 or TalkTalk. For hosting, see Streamline.net. In comparison companies such as Zen Internet and Memset, have superb customer service but are on the other end of the scale when it comes to price.

Bearing this in mind, you have to decide what you’re willing to accept and look at the market. There are often companies that can buck the trend, or sit somewhere in the mid-way point of price and service. Often companies can do this but offering limited support but being up-front about it and, what they do provide, is better as a result. My host is Tsohost and I’d highly recommend them – they’re excellent value but offer a good service.

Not all companies fall into this rule, however. Samsung is generally well known for poor customer service. It also has a habit of not supporting products soon after they’re released (normally when they’re now promoting the next version). People continue to buy their products, though, because they’re so damn good – you just have to accept the downsides that go along with it. Just make sure you know this beforehand, though.

What I’m saying is – do your research! Forums are the best way to do this. Sometimes, though, you’ll have to accept that the competition is often as bad. As much as I’ve had problems with O2 I know from reputation that I’d probably have just the same problems with any other mobile network.

But there’s another rule to remember – don’t trust the response you get from the sales department. They are there to sell you a product and are often well staffed and eager to please. If, before you buy, you find their sales department to be keen, don’t assume their later technical assistance will be.

So, you’ve made your choice and now need customer service.

Find a Forum

Do this first if your issue is not urgent. If the manufacturer have their own forum head for this first but also look for any others that might exist.

Often, and certainly in the case of the better companies, technical people from the company will monitor it and answer people’s problems. This is a really efficient way for a company to resolve less urgent issues and should be promoted as much as possible.

Even if they don’t monitor it, there will often be knowledgeable people eager to help. But not always.

Contact Online

If it’s more urgent or you can’t find a forum head to the company’s online contact form (or they may give you an email address instead). Give them a few days to respond and if they don’t, don’t assume they’re ignoring you – servers fail and emails do go missing so it may not be their fault (the great joy of dealing electronically).

I’ll admit to rarely finding such contact useful. These queries will often be responded to “off shore” Helpdesks who will struggle to compose a reply that’s brilliantly readable, let alone understand what you’re asking in the first place. But at least give it a try.

Now Find a Phone

Ok, your issue is either very urgent or you’ve tried all the above and got nowhere. Pick the phone up and call them. Expect a reasonable wait, but at least this should get you through to someone.

Always get their name and, if they can provide you with one, a reference of some kind. They might be busy and ask to call you back. This is fine but make sure you give a number that will ensure they get through to you  – don’t be worried to give your mobile number out in this case.

Make use of Twitter

Many companies now have a Twitter presence and the good thing about Twitter is how public it is – companies do not like bad things being said about them publicly.

As an example, I recently had a technical query after purchasing a product. I’d initially tried the manufacturer’s support forums but, days later, had no response, so I phoned them. There was a lot of holding and transferring but was given a ticket number and was told someone would call me back. Hours later, nobody had. So I Tweeted about it, ensuring that the companies Twitter name was included. Even though their customer service had closed 15 minutes earlier I miraculously had a phone call a matter of minutes later. They didn’t make mention of the Tweet but it’s an odd coincidence. When I purchased this product I was impressed by the speed of answering my initial queries. I’d fallen foul of that basic rule of not being swayed by Sales.

When All Else Fails

If you’ve done the above then it’s time to complain properly. Look on the companies website on how to make a complaint and submit one.

If you get no response from that then write a letter. Yes. A letter. But it works – I’ve had a lot of excellent responses from this. Try and find the name of their head of customer services and write to them. If not send to a generic title such as “Head of Customer Services”.

Don’t be rude in the email. Set out what’s happened and what you’d like them to do to resolve it. With regard to the latter, don’t be greedy. Let’s be honest, all you want is for your issue to be sorted. There are many good articles on the internet about how to write a good letter of complaint, so I’d recommend having a look at those.

I find I rarely get to this stage so don’t worry. Be patient and if you’re not happy, make sure you share your experience.