If you’ve ever been a customer of one of Canada’s main cable providers, you’re likely familiar with what I call Bill-Induced Bear Syndrome. It’s a common condition triggered by a monthly bill-containing envelope, a surprisingly high number, and often accompanied by incompetent customer service. Symptoms include roaring with rage, mashing phone buttons, and biting the heads off unfortunate sales reps.
If you’ve uncovered an error on your cable bill, or are the victim of gross overcharging, it can be tempting to go on the attack. After all, having your hard earned money squandered by a big corporation isn’t to be taken lightly. But fear not – there are ways to effectively solve your bill crisis (and they don’t have to involve yelling).
Step 1 – Divide and Conquer
First things first – calm down. Negotiating rarely goes well when emotions are involved. If you’re the type to get downright hot headed about your money, take a serious chill pill before you call customer service. Next, get organized. Gather up your past bills and study them closely to see if you can pinpoint how far back an error may be occurring, or if there’s been a change in your package. If you’re a brand new customer, be sure to have a copy of any applicable promotion you may have signed up for. Next, take the time to read your original contract. Some include a clause stating changed services can render an existing contract null and void – if you catch it in time. For this reason, it’s smart to carefully review your services on a monthly basis – it could provide you with the legal edge to back out of a contract scot-free if need be.
It’s also smart to dig up a promo or two offered by your provider’s competitor to reference during your call. There’s a chance this leverage could come in handy.
Step 2: State Your Purpose
Once you’ve gathered up your evidence, it’s time to dial that customer service line. Patience is a virtue here – getting connected with a real live person can sometimes be a challenge, and it may take trial and error to find your way to a representative.
Once you’re on the phone with an agent, take on a polite, yet firm, tone. Tell them that you’ve become aware of an issue with your bill that requires review. Start by stating your account number, identifying the billing period when the issue began, and clearly outline what’s necessary for you to remain a happy customer. Always keep in mind that the account rep is a human who responds to stress and antagonism as you would – taking an aggressive or confrontational approach will make resolving your issue less likely.
If you experience problems with your service rep, you can always excuse yourself from the call and dial back in to be connected with someone else.
Step 3: Find Those In The Know
Keep in mind that the first customer service associate you connect with may not have the authority to resolve your issue. Often, the first line of reps are junior employees. If the rep is floundering to resolve your issue (or is constantly placing you on hold – this is a sign they’re being coached through the call), ask to be transferred to the Loyalty and Retention department to officially “escalate the complaint”. This department has one main purpose – to hang onto your business at whatever cost. Explain to them that you have experienced frustration with their customer service, and that this has made your overall perception of their services even more negative. Clearly restate your issue – hopefully steps have been put into action at this point to resolve it.
Step 4: Your Secret Weapons
If you’re still not getting anywhere, this is the time to pull out the big guns: inform the associate that you will not be renewing your services once you are contractually able to cancel them. While cancelling early will likely require payout of your remaining contract, assuring the company that you will never again use their services once you’re legally off the books will often be taken seriously.
If tactics with Loyalty and Retention fail, it’s time to go further up the ladder. Rogers customers can ask for “the office of the president” while Bell customers should demand the “executive office”. The associates working at this level have the most authority when it comes to making changes to your bill or services package, and it’s worth attempting to contact them.
If the above tactics still fall short of a resolution, or if you’re on the hook for hundreds or thousands of dollars, it may be time to reach out to a telecommunications ombudsman. The CRTC offers a handy list of resources for those looking to lodge a serious complaint. Rogers also has an in-house ombudsman, Kim Walker, who specializes in providing closure for the worst of complaints. Click here for details on how to contact her.
Throwing In The Towel
If you’ve been burned one too many times by your telecommunications company, take comfort in the fact that there is life after cable. Many of your favourite prime time shows can be streamed online for free (check out Tips to Cut Your Cable Bill), and many shows from specialty channels can be viewed on subscription streaming services such as Netflix. Technology demand has recognized the shift from TV to computer screen, and a plethora of internet players have hit the market, enabling viewers to easily access online content from the comfort of their couch.
Freebie alert: You could WIN a free Sony Internet Player with Google TV (a $199 value) when approved for the MBNA SonyCard MasterCard before October 15. Hurry – time is almost up!