The Customer Service Two-Step

The router/modem thingy that connects our house to DSL and the greater Interwebs was deader than vaudeville, so I had time on my hands. I called Customer Service.

First, I sat through a lot of recorded messages, occasionally pressing “1” to keep things moving along. The helpful recordings suggested I should plug it in and check the cables, but I’d already tried all that, so I just waited.

A live human eventually came on the line. She was very nice, very helpful. Though we had certain communications difficulties -- I kept referring to the router/modem thingy as “that box on my desk” -- we managed to sort it out.

She asked me the same questions about whether it’s plugged in, but I’d already tried all that. When she heard that even the “power” light wouldn’t come on, she ruled that I need a new box, which I thought was the whole point of this conversation.

Then she said, “Your modem is no longer under warranty. So a new one will be $69.”

“I don’t want to pay $69,” I said. “I already pay you people every month. Without a box, I can’t get your expensive service, which I already pay you for.”

“But the modem costs--”

“I didn’t break the box. I shouldn‘t have to pay for it..”

“Let me go talk to my manager.”


Several helpful recorded messages later, she came back on: “Okay, my manager says we can give you the modem for free, but you’ll need to extend your service contract by one year.”

“No, I’m not allowed to do that. My wife handles all that stuff. She’s not here.”

“Huh. Let me go talk to my manager.”

A couple of minutes of recorded messages followed, but I wasn't listening. I was playing Spider Solitaire. That part of my computer still worked.

“Okay," she said when she returned. " My manager says we can give you the modem for free and with no contract extension.”

“Free? Great. How soon will it get here?”

“Two to three business days.”

“That won’t do. I need it sooner. This is my home office. My whole business runs through that box. My wife’s business, too.”

“Let me go talk to my manager.”

A few Spider Solitaire games later, she returned: “Okay. We’ll send it overnight delivery.”

“Free shipping?”

She sighed. “All for free.”


I report this triumph of everyday life not simply to crow about it, but to remind you that you don’t have to settle for the first answer. With a little mulishness, you often can get exactly what you want.

My wife taught me that. Over the years, I’ve watched her wear down a lot of salespeople and helplines. Her favorite expression: “Can you make an exception for me?”

All it takes is patience. Dealing with Customer Service has developed into a little telephone two-step, and you have to let it run its course. I’m sure the “manager” my helpful operator consulted each time was the next line on a page of sales protocol. In between her ever-improving offers, she was probably doing her nails. Or playing Spider Solitaire.

It’s her job to go down her list and drag her feet and maybe squeeze some money or a contract extension out of the hapless, panicky customer. It’s the good consumer’s job to wait her out.

These companies know they have a lot of competition out there, and to keep customers they must let us have our way with them. Eventually.

All they ask is that we dance with them first.


Life without Clots said...

it is a gift that men need to learn.

Patty said...

I understand if you *never* push a button you will get routed to a real human within a couple of minutes. Its worked for me a few time.