Angie's List: How to win the war with customer service

Do's and don't for dealing with comm. provider

TAMPA - Cell phone and internet service are almost essential in today's busy world. But what happens when you have a problem? Angie Hicks, founder of the consumer group Angie's List , found out in a recent poll that communication services are among the most complained about categories on Angie's List. "We reviewed the reports received in 2011," she said. "Some of the common complaints we saw were dropped calls, outages, slow internet service as well as billing disputes and general customer service issues."

Grades on Angie's List , the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews, are based on overall experience, price, quality, responsiveness, punctuality and professionalism.

Common complaints with these communication services:

  • Dropped calls/spotty service
  • Outages
  • Slow Internet speeds
  • Poor customer service/technical issues
  • Billing disputes
  • Long install/wait times

On the other hand, because of stiff competition for your dialing dollar, Angie said, consumers are in the drivers seat. Stand up for yourself, Hicks said, but be prepared. "When you have an issue with a service provider contact them directly. Know what service you need, what your problem is, and also check around with competitors. Lots of the communication companies are offering all kinds of deals these days so know what's out there so you can ask for that deal as well."

Angie's List Tips: How to get quality Internet & phone service

  • Have the facts at your fingertips. Be ready with the details of what is wrong before you call. Documentation is key in winning the complaint war – if there is an issue with your bill, have a copy of the bill in front of you. Also, record the name of the person you're speaking with and note the date and time you called. These details will increase your credibility if you need to follow up later. Finally, be prepared with what steps you would like the company to take to rectify the situation.
  • Act assertive, not angry. Starting out nasty will instantly put the other person on the defensive. A great opening line is to tell the company that you have "a problem" and are looking for help in how to solve it. Explain the facts without showing emotion (lip biting permitted).
  • Always, always follow the Golden Rule. Treat the company with respect, even in the way you explain your complaint. As an example, if it appears a repair has not worked, rather than accusing the company of doing the job "wrong," let them know you're still having the same problem and are in need of their help. If a bill turns out to be higher than expected, ask for a detailed breakdown of the bill before you accuse them of "price-gouging."
  • Go to the top. If the person answering the phone is not responsive to your complaint, ask to speak to the company's consumer retention department. Don't antagonize this person; he or she will be more encouraged to refer you to the right "higher-up." Another hint: tell that person you will be sure to explain to the manager how well you've been treated.
  • Explain the consequences. If you're not getting a positive response, explain what will happen if you don't get action. If you have been a long time customer, let them know this and assert that they will no longer have your business. If you have referred others to them, point that out as well.
  • Scope out the Competition: Keep an eye out for special promotions from competitors. If your provider can't match the competition's offer, don't hesitate to change companies. Just make sure the price of the new plan compensates for any equipment you need to install. Be prepared to end your service if you can't get the service you deserve.
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