customer service conundrum
October 14, 2020 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I need assistance from a specific person at a business. This person, for whatever reason, dislikes me. How can I convince someone to help me when they clearly don't want to?

I am a client of this business, and I need my contact person to help me out with an unusual (but not unheard of!) request -- it's definitely not a personal favor, it is definitely something within their job description. I need this problem resolved on a very short timeframe. If this thing doesn't happen, it will cause me significant, medium-to-long-term hardship.

If this person didn't already dislike me, I think it would be a nonissue to get the issue resolved. (I have reached out to a manager, who assured me my contact person would help, but that...has not panned out, and now it's almost too late. Plus I suspect reaching out to the manager made our relationship even worse!)

What do you do when you need help from someone who is looking for every reason to tell you "no"? I'm a pretty calm and easygoing person with a long history in customer service myself, so this is new for me. Should I be appealing to their good nature? Making idle threats?? (not my style) Begging??? (Normally I'd do just a "I'm going to work with your competitor instead" and then do it, but for a variety of reasons that's not an option.)
posted by robot inside a grid to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Clear communication is key here. Be upfront with them, obviously in person conversations are both best and (probably) not possible under the current COVID situation, but at the very least I would try to get this person on the phone. Email and text do not allow for accurate representation of your tone, and can lead to miscommunications. Allow for the possibility they don't like or dislike you, but you may just be two people who communicate slightly differently and therefore rub each other the wrong way.

Be frank and polite and specific. 99% of the interpersonal issues I've ever dealt with involved people assuming the other knew how important or serious something was without ever coming close to saying it. People deal with busy clients all the time where everything is an emergency, if this time your thing really is an emergency you may need to say so in those exact words.

"I've been told by that you're the person who can get this done. I really need it done by . Frankly I've always had a slight feeling that you don't like me, I'm sorry if I've ever rubbed you the wrong way, I've certainly never meant to. Sometimes people just have different communication styles, and things get lost in translation. So the bottom line is I just need to know whether or not you can deliver by . If you can't do it then my business will suffer. Can you do that?"

Also start thinking about what you will do if they say no. Sometimes things don't work out and planning ahead for that, while stressful, is less stressful then having to do it last minute.

posted by tiamat at 7:28 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]

Whether or not this person doesn't like you doesn't matter. They aren't doing their job, and you need them to do their job in order to get YOUR job done.

If it's almost too late, reach out to the manager again and politely state that "look, something seems to be holding things up, can I get some help here?" Let the manager manage things; if the manager has an employee that is going to be a petty schmoo about things, that is the MANAGER'S problem, not yours. I know you're trying to cut them a break because you've had customer service experience,'re a customer this time, and you've given them a reasonable request and they're not following through for an unreasonable reason.

Or, for all you know, maybe the delay is because of something totally innocuous like "they broke their leg" or something and no one knows you've been emailing. Reach out to the manager and make it their problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:28 PM on October 14 [9 favorites]

Whether they like you or not is an issue I think you shouldn't be focusing on at this point. Getting your business issue resolved takes priority.

In your shoes I'd be contacting the manager again and explaining in short words that what they said would happen by X date has still not happened and now needs to happen pretty damn sharpish. Make this the manager's problem.
posted by flabdablet at 7:29 PM on October 14 [18 favorites]

I would contact the manager again and ask them to assist you or to assign the task to someone else. You should also communicate the need for the task be done in a timely manner because of the repercussions to you.

I would not send some long-winded "I don't think you like me" email. Ask for what you need and indicate when you need it done.
posted by shoesietart at 7:31 PM on October 14 [4 favorites]

at the very least I would try to get this person on the phone

This has been a big part of the problem -- everything is happening over email, which means it is sloooow and impossible to clarify things or ask questions. This person absolutely refuses to call me back, and they do not answer the phone (everyone at this business sends calls directly to voicemail and then they return them as they feel like...or not). The manager did call me back once, which is when she assured me that my contact person would take care of it.
posted by robot inside a grid at 7:36 PM on October 14

If I were a manager, and one of my direct reports refused todo their job because they didn’t like a client, they would probably not be a direct report much longer. I’ve had a lot of customer service experience too; this would never have been accepted at any of my jobs.

The time for talking to the manager has passed. Go above the manager. Let them know this one individual is causing you to rethink your entire relationship with the company. How they respond will be telling. Either they value your business and will rectify the problem, or they don’t.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:41 PM on October 14 [8 favorites]

Do not bother with the contact person anymore. Do not bother discussing whether the contact person likes or dislikes you. Reach out to the manager again. Leave a voicemail, "Hi, it's robot inside a grid. On [date of last call], you said that [contact person] would do [whatever]. I phoned on [dates] and emailed on [dates] and have not had a response. This must be done by [deadline]. How can we get this done? This is urgent, please respond as soon as possible." Then write the same thing in an email to them, saying "I have also left this information on your voicemail". Do this first thing.

You give them until about 1 pm to respond. At 1 pm, you call manager again, reminding them it's urgent. You then forward this email back to manager, as well as their manager, or anyone else higher on the chain you know, whom you also email. Repeat at 4 pm (email and phone call).

If this doesn't work, you need to push a bit differently on Friday; it will depend a great deal on what kind of business this is. If your deadline IS this Friday, this will need to be sped up and depend again on what kind of business this is.
posted by jeather at 7:45 PM on October 14 [24 favorites]

in the orgs I've worked in, someone -- probably in the sales dept -- would have some sort of stake in keeping you as a customer. If that's true, they will be royally pissed off to hear that your account is being treated so poorly that you're considering withdrawing your business, and they would figure out how to get your problem solved. I'd talk to that person. If you don't know who that is, you might be able to find out by calling the sales dept and asking who is assigned to the [your company] account.

If this isn't applicable, then cal the director of the customer service organization, or email them with a cc to the manager. Don't talk to the rep anymore. And don't suggest to anyone that the rep "doesn't like you."
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:47 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]

Email sucks.

Step 1) Email employee and ask them to call you (giving a short but reasonable time frame). Don't put anything else in the email they can respond to. "Call me about X" leaves the door open for them to send you a status update on X and think they have dealt with you. Just ask them to call you in a given 1 hour block of time. Again, take a careful look at your own previous communications; you may think you've already asked them to call you but in re-reading your own email find that by being overly polite you actually never came right out and said it.

Step 2) If they don't call within time call the manager again and say what you said above. "We've been communicating by email, but it's slow and this deadline is looming and I can't get employee on the phone. Right now it does not seem like this is going to be successful, and that is going to harm my business and will require me to re-assess our business relationship. Please have them call me at [time]."

On preview, what jeather said is good too. It all just depends on how much time you have left.

It's important to remember that nothing jeather or I have suggested is even the slightest bit rude, although it may feel like it if it's outside your comfort zone. Telling people what you need is not rude. Telling people you can't do business with them under the current circumstances is not rude. Telling people their employee isn't meeting your needs is not rude. (So long as you, you know, don't do it in a rude way. Don't yell or call people names.)
posted by tiamat at 7:48 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]

I want to (partially) agree with what fingersandtoes said here "And don't suggest to anyone that the rep "doesn't like you."

I agree in that in that I would not say that to anyone else. I might say it to the rep themselves, as they need to know that they've been a bit unprofessional by giving you that impression. Whether or not they like you shouldn't matter and frankly in a professional relationship you shouldn't be able to tell what they really think of you.

If it got to the point where I had to speak to a manager about that aspect of the problem specifically, I wouldn't discuss feelings. I would deal with the underlying specifics (whatever those might be). e.g. they are slow to respond to email, they are curt in their email, they refuse to get on the phone as requested. Putting it to the manger in terms of "they don't like me" doesn't give the manager a way to fix it, where-as specifying the behaviour you are unhappy with does.
posted by tiamat at 7:59 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]

Jeather has it!
For the moment concentrate on what you need done immediately.
Later, you might have a talk with the manager again to see about getting another service representative assigned to you.
Personally, I wouldn’t dwell on whether the service representative likes me or not I would concentrate on how they are acting towards me and my business.
“Manager, I need a rep who calls me back and confirms that they will complete X,Y,and Z. “
“Is there some other workflow or information that you need from me in order to get this?”
posted by calgirl at 8:21 PM on October 14

Other people here have provided some great scripts to use, but here is the important part:

It's time for you to become a VERY SQUEEKY WHEEL. You aren't getting what you need, you are being reasonable, and you can continue to be reasonable in a very loud and confrontational manner. It sucks like hell, but sometimes that is the only way to get it done.
posted by weed donkey at 8:39 PM on October 14 [7 favorites]

It depends whether the power dynamic favors you (e.g. you are a high-paying customer of a for-profit business) or favors this customer service rep (e.g. they are a government agency processing your application, or you are trying to get released from a contract).

If the power dynamic favors you, the answers from jeather or fingersandtoes seem good.

If the power favors the rep, then you may need to show deference and self-awareness that you are at their whim. You can leave periodic voicemails where you sound respectful, worried, and hoping for their help. E.g. "I'm sorry to call again, but this will really make a big difference to my life. Will you please help me?"
posted by cheesecake at 4:38 AM on October 15 [12 favorites]

I'm hoping things worked out for you. If you're able to, please update.
posted by jeather at 6:58 AM on October 22

« Older B.B.B. does not mean Better Business Bureau   |   Should I get meta with my therapist? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments