Updated on 03.16.07

Five Minute Finances #12: Contact Customer Service

Trent Hamm

Five Minute FinancesFive Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on The Simple Dollar.

Ever received a product that was severely worse than your expectations? For example, ever bought a bag of chips that was horribly stale, or bought some salsa that tasted bad, or a bottle of laundry detergent that was dried out on the inside? Most companies are quite willing to help you to make things right, simply because it is good public relations.

What’s the benefit? If you get ahold of their customer service department for most smaller consumer goods, you’ll often receive coupons for replacement products – often in multiples. For example, I received a huge pile of coupons for free salsa in the past, and I got about fifteen coupons for $3 off any package of Luvs disposable diapers (since I could get small packages of them for $4.99, each one made for nearly free diapers).

What’s the drawback, then? If you start to call on a regular basis, you will be noted and your rewards will go down rapidly. Most of the major consumer good providers share a database of frequent callers, a “blacklist,” if you will, and thus this technique has serious diminishing returns.

Got it – don’t overdo it. So what do I do? If you buy a consumer good and are unsatisfied with the experience, take a minute to call the customer service number on the package. Simply tell them exactly why you’re dissatisfied, but be open to trying the product again or trying similar products. The usual result from this (almost every time, from my experience) is that they’ll send you a supply of vouchers or very strong coupons that can save you some serious money.

For example, I had an incident with Luvs diapers a while back (about one in every three diapers in the bag had an elastic band that fell apart almost immediately). I called the company, explained the problem in detail, and several days later I received some vouchers for more diapers, plus a nice pile of $3 off coupons for Luvs diapers.

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  1. Tyler says:

    I worked in customer service for a while. Besides the crazies my most memorable calls were when the people offered to help me. One lady offered me a place to stay if I was ever in her town. The other guy told me to look him up if I were ever in Vegas and he’d get me tickets to a show. For this type of customer I would have done anything to help.

    The other thing that made me want to help the customer was when they used my name at the beginning and end of the call. If you forget the persons name by the end of the call just ask.

  2. Stephen says:

    Something to keep in mind is that often you will get coupons if you really like the product and call to tell them about that, as well. True, they aren’t as worried about keeping a customer from becoming a possible loss, but they are usually happy to help a satisfied customer become more so. Like they say, word-of-mouth *is* a better advertisement than what they can pay for.

  3. Rob says:

    :) – I did some IT work for a customer complaints line for a large shaver company. They tracked every single caller on little bits of paper. We were implementing a basic CRM for them. So I’m not sure that every company puts you on the blacklist.

    Oh – and any complaint – OR COMPLIMENT – usually ended up with free stuff.

  4. Amy says:

    I work the customer service desk and have learned that like 99 percent of all callers are complaints or information/person requests. Does ANYbody compliment others these days?

    If you like how a cashier performed, *please* go through the extra five minutes and compliment him or her – it could make a promotion that was years away become immediately available. Or, it could also affect the person’s pay and/or evaluations.

    I once received a poor evaluation rating simply because I did not earn any customer compliments!

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