Dealing With Cellular Carrier

By: Tim Trice

I fell behind recently on my Sprint bill. I figured I owed them about $50 so on payday last Wednesday, I made the payment online. Friday, I got a recorded call stating my service was in danger of being cut off. I called immediately and asked for an extension as I wasn't sure I still owed as much as they said. The representative I spoke with offered to give me two weeks to review my phone bill but I said one was fine. He promised my phone would stay on for the next week. I didn't take notes of the conversation. That was my first mistake.

There always comes a point where you have to adjust what bills you're going to pay and how much. Usually, the only bills that were given guarantees of payments were for cars or homes. But, in today's world, even cellular service requires immediate attention. We've become so convenient on the necessity that we feel naked if we don't have our phone tucked away in our pocket. Hell, I didn't even own a cell phone until a year ago. Now, it's the only phone I have.

The main thing that amazes me is how much we all complain about the customer service. Having worked as a Verizon Wireless customer service representative for six months, I feel I have enough experience to make the next statement: They complain as much about you, the customer, as you do about them!

First off, how many times do we contact customer service and end up getting frustrated that we use certain words that we wouldn't even say to our worst enemy? We may not think we do or realize when we're doing it. But when we dial that number we put up a shield...a front. We expect results because we are, after all, the customer. When we don't get them, we feel violated. And we unleash the anger. What's the big deal, after all? They don't know you. You'll never speak to them again. So it makes it a little easier.

Back to my story, I called Sprint immediately when I realized my phone had been cut off. I explained to the lady the conversation I had less than a week earlier where the gentleman said my service would remain active for a week. Her response: "I'm sorry, sir. I don't see that notated in the account." Of course, you don't.

Every time you call your cellular provider the customer service rep, of course, must access the account. As soon as they access that account, it is recorded in the system. It is up to the rep to notate why you called and what the solution was. Of course, they don't always do that.

The rep continued: "Sir, I cannot reinstate the service until we receive your past-due payment."

"Let me speak to a supervisor!" (I promise, I used no vulgarity!)

"Sir, they will tell you the same thing I'm telling you now."

STOP!

Don't fall for this junk. Let me explain the four types of customer service representatives:

THE BEGINNER

This individual just started working for the company not too long ago. Chances are, this is the first day on the job. This market has such a high turnover rate that call centers go out of their way to offer prizes for best monitored call, best attendance, most kudos (will explain in a moment), etc. They've more than likely gone through some training course (Verizon requires six to 12 weeks training). But, a majority of them are scared. They've listened in on previous calls with a more experienced rep. They remember the rep bouncing back and forth between screens on the computer looking at various information. They remember the rep having a solution, or at least some kind of answer, for every question the customer through. Most importantly, they remember that BEEP! That beep that signals, ACTION! Speak! And the beginner, when they hear that first beep, panic! They want to do good, but are afraid they won't.

Identify the beginner:

They hesitate. They get quiet. They mumble. They sound unsure. Most, and probably all, reps for each company are told not to allow more than five seconds of silence. Keep the conversation going while you research whatever you need to research. The beginner doesn't realize how fast those five seconds go, or they forget. Either way, numerous long periods of silence are sure signs you have reached a beginner.

Dealing with the beginner:

Or, better yet, don't. If you just need a text message package added to your account or want to know your minute usage, go ahead and stay on the line with the beginner. Otherwise, either ask for a supervisor or call back. If you ask for a supervisor, explain to the beginner that it's nothing personal. Explain you just want to make sure you take care of your needs in one call. I won't hesitate to call back at all. I'll let the beginner take care of my needs. But, you better believe I'll call back and make sure they were taken care of (if possible, I'll just access my account online. Most information is posted online and you can save yourself time AND hassle). Don't be afraid to double-check. In fact, not double-checking is the worst mistake you can make. Imagine the phone call you'll have in a month when you realize you were NOT moved from that 450-minute-plan to the 900 minutes and you have 400 minutes in overages at $0.45/minute. That's $180. I've seen it too much. It's much easier to call back than it is to fight for that credit!

The Statistician:

This person is concerned about the length of the call. This person is concerned about how long they keep you on hold. This person is primarily in a rush. They want to move on to the next call. Believe it or not, reps are judged more by how long their average call lasts than anything else, including hold time (though that is heavily stressed, as well). This person wants you to move on so they can move on. They want that Playstation 3 the call center is prizing off!

Identify the Statistician:

Again, they'll rush you but do it in a way that you don't seem rushed. If you think to yourself, "Man, this kid's quick," you have a statistician. It's not necessarily a bad thing. They feel confident in themselves, in the system, and in the product that they can move quickly. It's almost second-nature for them to change that price plan or your text message package. Most importantly, these kids won't try to upsell too much. They might offer you more minutes, but only if it appears you may go over. They want you off that phone. They care about results. That can work in your favor.

Dealing with the Statistician:

Let them be! Tell them immediately what you want and let them do the rest. As with the beginner, though, double-check at a later time that the changes you requested were made. It's pretty simple to click on the 100 text message package when they should have clicked 1000! After a few hours on the job, staring at the screen can become quite numbing!

The Quitter:

The Quitter doesn't care about results. They're one call away from turning in their badge and walking out the door for good. You've reached the Call Center Slum!

Identify the Quitter:

Sarcasm, laziness, mumbling, unpoliteness; you name it! This person doesn't say, "Yes," "Ma'am", "Sir." This person says, "Yeah," "Sure," "Uh-Huh." This person won't call you by your name.

Dealing with the Quitter:

Just hang up. It's not worth it. You'll accomplish nothing. Chances are, they won't even make the changes you're requesting. You can try to ask for a supervisor. But don't be surprised if while you're on hold he's already headed towards the door!

The Carer:

The Carer is the opposite of the Satistician...to an extent. The Carer is more concerned with making sure you get what you asked for. The Carer is more concerned with assuring you end the call with a smile or at least a sense of satisfaction. The Carer understands they will not be liked by every call nor will they satisfy every call. But, the Carer knows when the call is over, they will have given it their best shot. If you get the Carer and still feel unresolved, understand it's not the rep, it's the Company.

Identify the Carer:

The Carer will strike up a conversation with you. And, it may not be the simple "How's the weather in Montana?" The Carer may notice a dog barking in the background or a mumbling baby. The Carer will pick up on things. And you will, too. You'll pick up on their tone of voice, their friendliness, their willingness to help. You'll feel at ease. You'll feel relaxed. You know when you hang up that phone, you can move on to the next task of the day.

Dealing with the Carer:

Go ahead and feel at ease with the Carer. But, don't let your guard down. The Carer can still make mistakes. The Carer may have spent a long day at that cubicle and not realize they selected the wrong plan. But, don't feel betrayed. It is a tough job. The Carer meant to do right.

I won't say which one of these categories I fell in to. I remember one customer who took a trip from New York to Colorado. She wanted credit for all the overages, not realizing her peak times were adjusted with the time zones. I coudn't give it to her and I knew a supervisor wouldn't. She, of course, was irate. And her threats made me less willing to help her.

I remember a gentleman whose teenage daughter went WAY over her text message usage. I knew it could be credited back. But, I couldn't do it. Several times the man became irate; not at me but with the Company and their rules. I kept insisting to the gentleman, "I can't help you sir." "I can't help you sir!" "I can't help you, sir!" Finally the man caught on. "Let me speak to a supervisor!" "Absolutely!" The man got his credit.

Most importantly, and I can't stress this enough. Double-check your changes. Do it online. Call back. Do whatever to make sure you did get that price plan change or that data package. If you don't double-check, expect surprises. If you expect surprises, you may be surprised that there are none! Mistakes happen. Don't think every customer service rep is out to screw you.

In Part 2 of dealing with your cellular carrier I'll focus on some tricks you can use to accomplish the results you need.

What are your experiences with cellular customer service reps? Have you ever done the job? Want to share some stories? Have at it!

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