with Amy Urquhart
I’m Amy and I’ve spent the last three years trying to strike that perfect balance between being a wife, mom and professional career woman. I’ve decided that I’ll never perfect the art of “having it all”, but this blog is a chronicle of my attempts to continue to do so. I’m a blogger (my personal blog about Canadian home life is Hearts into Home), gardener, college instructor, wife to Graham and mom to Nate. If you’re also a working mom who finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day, I hope you’ll enjoy this column!
Read her blog at Hearts into Home.
I always look over my bills when they arrive, keeping an eye out for bizarre charges or extra fees. That means that, over the years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the phone with customer service representatives, asking for explanations or requesting refunds.
Here are a few tips to consider if you’re about to make a call:
- Read the fine print. Take a few minutes to read the fine print about your account, to figure out whether the the issue you want to discuss is legitimate. If you’re calling to contest a fee, for example, but the company disclosed the fee in the fine print, then you don’t have a leg to stand on.
- Document everything. Keep any documentation that came with your card, of course, but any time you call customer service be sure to write down the date and time of the call, your reason for calling, the name of the representative with whom you spoke, and the outcome of the call. You can jot it all down right on the most recent statement, or if you keep electronic records, try sending the info to yourself as an email, which allows you to search for it as needed. It’s also a good idea to ask the representative to make a note in your account on their end, especially if you’re calling to report a recurring issue.
- Know what you want. Before you even pick up the phone, be sure you know what you’re trying to get out of the call. Do you want a fee waived? Your interest rate reduced? And explanation for a charge? You may not get exactly what you want, but knowing exactly what you want gives you a better chance.
- Be polite. It’s hard, when you’re angry, to remember that the customer service reps you’re talking to isn’t the one who caused the problem. Don’t shoot the messenger. Thank him for his time, tell her you appreciate that she’s just trying to do her job, and reiterate what you’re calling about—without losing your temper.
- Ask the right questions. An inexplicable fee hike made without warning caused me to take a certain credit card out of my wallet recently. I decided to close the account after more than 10 years of frequent use, and, given the recent snafu regarding fees, I knew I’d have to be extra careful. If you’re trying to close your account, don’t ask what your balance is, ask them to calculate your actual pay-off amount. When you have to call again a month later to contest an additional, unauthorized charge, you can point out that the mistake was on their end, not yours. Most customer service reps are trained to explain how a charge happens; most can’t—or won’t—explain why. When they can’t—or won’t—answer your question, that’s when you need to ask to speak to someone who can.
- Ask to speak with a manager. Be polite about it. But be firm about it. Several customer service reps have warned me that their managers “wouldn’t be able to do anything different,” but if that was truly the case, chances are they wouldn’t be the managers, right? Thank the rep for attempting to answer your question, say that you require a bit more information, and ask to speak to a manger again. Remember that whoever answers the phone might not have the authority to get you what you want; it’s OK to ask to speak to someone who can.
Have you had to spend a lot of time on the phone with a company lately? How did things work out?
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