Don’t be an arsehole!

There are a few rules that should always be followed when dealing with an entity that has done the wrong thing. Counter-intuitively, they’re summed up thusly:

Don’t be an arsehole!

This is, of course, a complex statement.

There are a few simple rules that should be followed.

Never make things personal

The person you’re dealing with is another human being, attempting to do their job and deserves the presumption of their intent being to do everything they can to help you. It’s extremely unlikely that the person answering your questions had any intent of actually causing you inconvenience (or worse) and they’re in a position that is charged with assisting you in spite of the difficulties that the bureaucracy they operate within. A modicum of understanding goes a long way here – help them help you.

Avoid the word “you” where at all possible. Use the name of the company and use the word “we” when asking about next steps and getting a resolution.

Facts only

Keep the conversation on point, focused on what has happened and what has been done thus far. Don’t confabulate or otherwise embellish the situation as this actually weakens any position you hold and will give any detail-focused manager the means to draw an aspect of your case into question.

Keep emotion out of it

Getting angry, aggressive or otherwise emotive is unlikely to lead to any outcome other than the conversation being terminated. Customer service staff are generally given the option of terminating a call or interaction in response to profanity, aggression or any form of threat (amongst other things).

Acknowledge.  Resolve. Right.

Three simple words, and the easiest template to go into a situation with when correction is required.

For the avoidance of doubt, the company’s representative should acknowledge the problem that their conduct has caused, resolve the issue that you have been afflicted with and right the relationship with their customer. The last of these is the most variable, with some companies refusing to accept that the time of their customers has any value, which conveniently leads to…

Keep track of your time

The only reason you are spending any non-zero amount of time is due to a misstep on the part of the provider in question. Should you not comply with the expectations of a bank, airline, insurance provider or any other of a multitude of professional organisations the penalties involved are specific, punitive and executed with efficiency. The basis of said actions is the additional cost or loss of revenue the provider claims to be subject to.

The reverse is very rarely acknowledged by large organisations without specific prompting, and said specific prompting is an incredibly powerful tool.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Have all of your facts, research, previous communications and expectations in front of you, a pen/keyboard to record proceedings as they progress and to take notes regarding developments in the company’s position. Do not allow any statements to go unchecked or unrecorded.

Listen very carefully, for they shall say this only once

The person you are interacting with may make mistakes or misrepresent the intentions of the company inadvertently. Recording these aberrations when they is important as to demonstrate the lack of coherency in the company’s approach and reinforce the need for your time to be appreciated.

Set your goals early

As fun as it is to hear your drunk mate (who we shall call Theo) tell you that “I paid my bloody bill on time! Those bastards at Telstra are going to pay for cutting off my internet!”, there are a few things wrong with that statement.

  1. In all likelihood, there was a poorly constructed process that resulted in Theo not being able to participate in some odd fantasy football league for 20 minutes and no “bastards” were involved.
  2. “My internet” is incorrect usage of the term. If Theo has any sort of private network containing things he has obtained via an Internet connection, I’m betting that cutting it off from the rest of the world may save the eyes and mental health of many.
  3. The statement is entirely qualitative and unactionable

Technically Theo has made the provider “pay” if they promise to deduct one cent from the balance of his next bill. Of course it’s highly likely that Theo will return to the local pub at the next reasonable opportunity and call a bunch of people at his provider of choice bastards again for only paying him such a paltry amount whilst drinking VB and waiting for the nearest pool table to be free in the hopes of making his mate Keith circle the room sans pants for being a crap shot.

Know what you want in terms of restitution from your target prior to picking up the phone, typing an e-mail, searching for the company via Facebook Messenger or Tweeting at them with a profane hash tag.

Ask why

Things happen for a reason. Theo drinks VB because it helps him forget that barracking for Melbourne in the AFL is about as rational as expecting proper journalism from A Current Affair.

There will be some reason for whatever egregious transgression you’re enduring being inflicted upon your person. The question of “Why?” is incredibly powerful and tends to result in escalation and awareness from staff with greater means and/or latitude in helping you get a resolution and/or compensation.

Be gracious

The most important aspect of any interaction is the outcome. If an awkward date results in you eventually marrying the love of your life, that’s surely infinitely more preferable to having an awesome date that featured free drinks and roaming midgets carrying lines of cocaine for your enjoyment that led to warts and 3 different restraining orders.

If the company you’re speaking to has done everything they can to make things right, met your expectations and shown their clear intention to keep you as a customer then there should be due consideration given to said intent.

Fuck telemarketers and scammers

Telemarketers are a whole subject in and of themselves that will be gotten to in due course. None of the above apply to scammers – the more psychological trauma you can bring yourself to inflict, the better.

31 cents

We reject your reality and substitute our own

Telecommunications providers are odd creatures. The vast majority are hell bent on placing customers on 24 month contracts, selling additional services of questionable value and treating existing customers with indifference whilst typically offering significant incentives to new customers to shift loyalties.

Even though mobile technology is constantly evolving and mobile networks are constantly being upgraded and expanded the back end systems of some providers seem to have been manufactured in 1976 and regularly need a bloke named Keith to hit them with a shifting spanner to keep things running.

After cancelling a credit card I provided this particular telco with my new credit card details via their online portal. To my surprise, I received a delightful SMS indicating that immediate payment was required to maintain my service as the company was unable to “Direct Debit” my credit card.

Of course Direct Debit isn’t possible against credit cards, but what the provider was actually trying to tell me was that the payment had not been approved. I made a manual payment in response to this delightful revelation and made a note to chase up the card issuer to ensure there wasn’t a problem on their end.

Shortly thereafter, the cause became clear. The provider in question decided that supplying my new card details were not in line with whatever revenue or operational policy was in place at that time, with repeated attempts resulting in the old (now cancelled) card details being retained and no error being provided. To add to the ridiculousness of this, I had been charged a surcharge for making a manual payment. Up with this I did not put!

Online chat makes things happen

I’ve generally found that attempting the conventional Contact Us form or call centre paths are simply futile with this particular telco as a consumer. A little known fact is the increased level of access provided to staff who take care of web chat and social media channels and one that often provides a quicker, simpler and more optimal outcome for those of us who won’t put up with things going wrong and shoulders being shrugged in response.

After explaining the situation to “Dave”, the situation was resolved in his mind as I would not need to make future manual payments and would not receive SMS messages alleging that I was incapable of operating a credit card correctly.

Acknowledge. Resolve. Right.

When a supplier stuffs something up, I have the following simple expectations:

  • Take ownership and acknowledge the issue
  • Resolve the issue
  • Make things right with the customer

Excellent companies do all of these in one seamless motion and should be praised for it. In this particular case, none of these were done – the surcharge being an issue was not acknowledged, the time involved in sorting this issue out was not appreciated and no refund was offered for the surcharge.

At this point, I had to tell “Dave” that he needed to make things right and the company needed to pay me for my time. Deflection resulted, with the telco’s payment service provider being blamed, “Dave” claiming he could not give me what I was asking for and being told that I would need to invest more of my time to get any further action on the issue.

Stating that my next communication would result in fees being levied against the company due to the complaints process, “Dave” very quickly changed his tune. A request for a $40 credit and a refund of the surcharge was very quickly granted, however “Dave” managed to ruin his attempt at getting positive feedback for his resolution with a single statement. Specifically that future failures to pay will result in a late fee being applied and no waiving of said fees or surcharges.

If we bugger it up again, we’ll charge you for our ineptitude

This may be a canned response to issues involving waiving of fees, but it exemplifies the issue with far too many companies. The only reasonable response to this is (of course), “If the company does fail to follow my payment instructions again, complaints will be filed and the TIO will charge the company handsomely.”

For some strange reason, “Dave” disconnected at this point.

All in all, I’ll count that as a win.