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Cable companies rank worst for customer service

Note that these complaints are not mutually exclusive. Some of the worst customer-service experiences start by trying to navigate an unhelpful phone tree, and then waiting for a long time on hold upon choosing the option for speaking to a representative.

Worst things once you reach a customer service representative

When they finally get through to a customer-service representative, consumers' problems may be far from over. Forty-seven percent of respondents chose poor language or communication skills on the part of customer-service representatives as their worst pet peeve. The next most annoying experience was representatives who stick to a prepared script rather than answering a question.

Both these problems are symptoms of companies treating customer service as an expense to be minimized, rather than an opportunity to be maximized.

What consumers can do about it

Here are some tips for getting more out of your customer-service experiences:

  1. Take names (or ID numbers). Start every conversation by asking for the name of your representative -- or an ID number if he or she won't give a full name. Sometimes, just knowing they are being held accountable makes customer-service representatives more responsive.
  2. Ask to speak to a supervisor. Don't hesitate to work your way up the ladder. Chances are the rank-and-file representatives don't have the authority to solve any real problems anyway.
  3. Try online service centers. More and more companies are gearing themselves to servicing customers online rather than over the phone, and you might find it a more efficient use of your time to go that route.
  4. Check your alternatives. If you have a serious gripe with a company, check out what alternative providers there are. This is good to know before you take the next step.
  5. Threaten to cancel. Sometimes this is the only thing that gets a response, but don't threaten it until you know you have a viable alternative lined up.

Some companies treat customer service as a numbers game rather than an opportunity to satisfy people. They expect a certain percentage of customers to leave over poor service, but they consider that cheaper than spending the time addressing their problems. If that seems to be the case with the companies you encounter, you shouldn't hesitate to take your business elsewhere.

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