Yesterday I called customer service to have two warm-steam vaporizers replaced. This is the 3rd or 4th time these units have had to be replaced over the past seven years – but they are lifetime warranty. The problem is, they require a $25 dollar fee (each) to return them, plus it costs $10/each to ship them. I’ve never paid the $25 fee, however they put us to the test yesterday.
I use these opportunities to teach my children how to negotiate, so earlier this week I had one of my daughters place the call. They started asking all kinds of questions and insisting we were doing something wrong. She wasn’t getting anywhere. In the past, this group has been easy to deal with, but something has changed and it didn’t look like we were going to get our units replaced for free this time. So how did we win?
The key to winning with this type of call is understanding how to escalate the call. Getting angry never works – after all, they are not obligated to give me anything. The call center people really have nothing to lose, and certainly no liability. Gathering my kids around the speaker phone, I said, “Let’s see if we can win this one.”
I made the call, getting the tier one person on the phone. She insisted on going through a set of diagnostic questions, and in the end determined that we could in fact send them back, but the $25 dollar fee was firm. I asked her if she was able to wave that and she said, “No.” I understand that – her company has apparently not given her authority to take action, so I agreed with her and asked to speak with her direct supervisor.
Tom came on the line next. He was also hardened..not very friendly. His tact was to verify if this was actually a warranty issue. In his opinion it was not. I asked him if he could do it any way, and he said, “The Policy is…” and basically said, no. Again, I agreed with him, understanding that he is not authorized to change the policy, but perhaps he could forward me to his manager, which he did. I politely thanked him for his time.
Carlos was next. he was genuinely polite, and seemed eager to help. I explained my situation, which was well documented in his system. I explained that the shipping fee for this type of item was high, and that the $25/each fee was out of my reach. I asked if we could wave the fee. Without question, Carlos said, “No problem, that is what we are here for.” He is sending me a shipping label, sending me two new units, and will have my old units analyzed in order to report back why they are not working.
The outcome was predictable. I was able to make this call on the speaker phone in front of my kids as a demonstration because I knew we would win this. Staying calm, agreeing along the way once it is clear that the person I am dealing with is unable to make a change, and escalating each time, is the key. This is great practice for selling. Use these situations to practice dealing with difficult people and negotiations, and apply this to your selling efforts.
© 2011, David Stelzl