Secrets to getting better customer service

by Nick on February 29, 2012

An old friend was telling me a story the other day about customer service.  Without rambling too much about this guy, let’s just say he’s pretty… “aggressive” with his customer service demands.  He usually gets what he wants but often by pissing and moaning for hours over multiple calls over multiple days until they finally get sick of him and give in.  I’ve begged him to try other ways to get what he wants, but this is what he knows and he apparently has no shame…

But isn’t it easier to get what you want without screaming and yelling for days, getting stressed out and frustrating a lot of people in the process?  Isn’t there some “integrity” element to getting good customer service?  I sure think so.  According to, though, there are “secret” phrases that can land you what you want quickly, depending on the situation.  Let’s dig in.

Responding to Bad Restaurant Service
MainStreet secrets:  Calmly and matter-of-factly telling the waiter the issue, then the manager if that doesn’t work.  “Hint” that you’re really important by saying something like “We’ve always liked it here and we know tonight is probably an exception to the rule, but can you fix this so we can continue to come here and bring our friends here?”  If that doesn’t work, one last-ditch attempt would be to “Let them know that you are the person who does office parties or events at your company…. people will snap for that.”

Seriously?  I don’t really have a problem with the first three, up to the hint that you’re important (because you are important!).  But lying and saying that you’re “the person who does office parties or events” to get a free piece of pie is just wrong (and sad) if you ask me.  Sometimes you just have to let your business do the talking.  If you can’t get what you want politely, firmly or by only telling the truth, just move on.

Complaining at a Retail Store
MainStreet secrets:  Ask for a supervisor who can most likely help you.  Keep going up the ladder as needed.  Be polite but persistent.  Try these magic words: “I’ve been a very loyal customer and I really like your company, but in this particular situation, I really need your help in resolving these concerns.”  Finally, if you’re looking for price concessions bring out facts about prices of their competitors.

Good.  This gets you to “the line” but doesn’t cross it.  I totally agree.  Polite, persistent, truthful efforts to get what you want.  Go for it!

Upgrading Your Flight Experience
MainStreet secrets:  Speak nicely and dress nicely.  Make eye contact with the staff, ask how their day is going and then politely make your request.  Other things “known” to work included handing out gift cards to passengers or attendants to switch seats or get some other perk and “pretending you’re engaged” to get an upgrade.

Hmmm… I’ve seen and agree with speaking nicely and being polite, etc.  I’m not sure I’d bribe someone to give me a perk, but I can see that working.  What about pretending to be engaged?  I’m torn about this.  On the one hand it’s lying.  On the other hand, it’s a bit different in my opinion than lying about your ability to give a restaurant more business.  See the difference?  In the restaurant example the manager is trying to give a little based on your representation that there’s a bigger deal to come.  In this case, you’re not promising/hinting at anything more.  Still think it’s shady though.

Negotiating With Your Landlord
MainStreet secrets: Emphasize that you’re a pet-free person in a stable relationship (assuming it’s true).  Landlords like this in new tenants.  Offer to pay several months rent upfront if they’ll cut the price slightly.  If you’re established and pay your rent on time emphasize that when it’s time to renew to get lower rent or no increase.

I totally agree that these are important.  In fact, I rent where I live and have my rent auto-sent by my bank on the 20th of the month for the following month.  My landlord gets a check a week before it’s due, every month, without fail.  Needless to say, if something goes wrong it’s fixed quickly.  We also don’t nickel and dime every small repair, etc.  For example, the shower head broke on Sunday.  We paid the $12 for a new one that was exactly the same as the old one and put it in ourselves.  We also bought a shower rod for a few bucks instead of nagging our landlord.  If it were something “significant” in terms of dollars or the apartment (like a dishwasher or broken window) we would have reached out to him.  But it’s not worth the time or hassle to spend an hour back and forth over a $12 item that means nothing to the apartment.

Getting a Better Deal on a Car
MainStreet secrets: Be willing to take a loan with the dealer.  Offer to trade in your car to the dealer.  Suggest a lower price elsewhere.  Strongly suggest you’re willing to buy the car that day.  Be coy.  Threaten to walk away.

Bunch of horse crap if you ask me.  Buying a car can get complicated for sure, but it’s possible to get a great price for cash without the stress.  We got a car $2,500 under sticker price, paid cash and had no trade in.  I’ve since spent some time trying to find a lower price and could not.  How did we do it?  We knew what we wanted, put a couple of bids online through the car manufacturer’s website.  Got a bunch of competitor bids and then called the three lowest to let them know we were buying as soon as we got a price we wanted but that we had multiple bids.  That got them to drop $400.  We then called the one we liked the best and said “you beat this by $100 we’ll buy from you today and pick it up tomorrow.”  He did.  We did.  We also made sure we were only dealing with managers at this point (the last guy was the GM of the dealership).  We were happy and it didn’t take a lot of time or lying.

Bottom line
Apparently lying to people to make them think you’re more significant to their business is touted as a secret to customer service.  I don’t know about you but I stop short of that.  I’m really “to the point” (if you can’t tell by reading this blog for more than a day…).  I know what I want.  I’m informed.  And I am polite, respectful and truthful.  But I don’t dance around a lot… Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been angry and complained when I feel I’m being disrespected or treated poorly.  But I find you catch more flies with honey than (whatever the rest of the phrase is…).

What do you think?  Any secrets to share with your fellow readers?  What’s your best customer service story?

Finally, and this is very, Very, VERY important (like the progression there…)
The pic at the top of this contest seemed appropriate when I downloaded it but then the guy started staring at me with this odd look in his eye and it got a little creepy.  So in addition to any comments on customer service (or instead if you prefer), let me know if he creeps you out too, haha!  Ooohhhh…. even better… how about a caption contest… what’s he saying and to whom… (is that correct English teachers?). 

One rule:  Keep it PG-13.  Seeing as I don’t preapprove comments this is a large vote of confidence in you!

P.s.  I’m typing this lying in bed with my 2.5 year old who is sleeping in his “big boy bed” for the first night.  I just sneezed and he flew into the air like he was a pancake being flipped over in a frying pan.  Scared the crap out of him but he fell right back asleep.  Pretty impressive. 

P.p.s. Now I can’t stop laughing and the entire bed is vibrating…

Until next time, put your credit card down and slowly step away from the mall!

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Image: photostock /

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Infant February 29, 2012 at 10:18 am

"C'mon ya know I'm the king of sexy"
My recent post Strike it Rich as a Web Content Writer


Stavros March 1, 2012 at 3:24 am

I live in NYC, born and raised. A few years ago I moved to a smaller place and lived there for 2 years before returning to Gotham. While living there, I learned to say Good morning, Good day and Good afternoon -not Hello, apparently that's too presumptuous but I don't know why.

Starting any conversation with these two words has proven invaluable to many customer service situations. Somehow people behave more human when you take a few seconds to great them with a smile before making your request. It's actually very funny because people are often taken aback, especially New Yorkers.

Try it once – I bet it makes a difference.


Nick March 2, 2012 at 3:05 am

Haha! There is a slimy look in his eyes for sure…


Nick March 2, 2012 at 3:06 am

I like it, Stavros. I'll work those into my repertoire. Thanks for stopping by.


tlpinspw March 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I think simple persistent politeness helps the any customer service situation significantly. One other thing to be aware of is that many if not most Tier 1 call center staff only have limited things they can even see or do about your account (if you are calling about a service of some sort). Their supervisors, at each level, have access to more information about you, as well as having more authority to provide you the type of redress you may be seeking.

As to what to the caption? "If you only knew how many times I've heard that story."
My recent post Why Rosetta Stone Works: Immersion


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