The Negotiator Magazine

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Renegotiating as a Customer

by Marc Freeman

We are all customers at one time or another; it is simply not possible to go through life not being a customer. As a customer, you want to be treated a certain way. You want to be treated with respect and kindness, and you want to be taken care of. You want whatever problem or issue you have to be solved.

Customer service is greatly lacking in this country. You can count on one hand the companies that provide great customer service, and you continue to do business with those same companies over and over again. A person never knows how good or bad a companyís customer service is until something goes wrong. This is usually a person's first experience in renegotiating as a customer with a particular company.

Unfortunately, people are constantly renegotiating as customers. Renegotiating is the art of changing, revising or altering a previously negotiated contract or relationship. Every time you have to return an item back to a store. Each time you call a company because you need help with one of their products. This is all renegotiating.

The key to reaching an agreement in a renegotiation lies in how you handle the situation. Here are four points on how to resolve the issue as quickly and as amicably as possible.

1. Always be prepared
Before you pick up the phone or venture back to the store, make sure that you have everything you will need. This includes all the information on the product or service available, such as when and where you bought it, how you paid for it, the account number if needed and what went wrong. Also make sure that you have your receipt handy. It usually helps to know who you had been dealing with previously.

If you try to deal with a customer service rep while unprepared, it makes it more difficult for everyone involved in the transaction. By making the experience as easy as possible for the rep, you are far more likely to see the results you want.

2. Know who is in control of the situation at all times
This is referred to as The Secret of the Orange Ball. The person in control of any renegotiation is the one holding The Orange Ball. Someone has to be in control in order for the renegotiation to move foreword. If you donít know who has the Orange Ball, it will be difficult to drive the renegotiation in your direction.

When you call the customer service department of any company about a problem or issue you are having, they control the Orange Ball. In this situation you donít mind if they are in control as long as they are solving your problem or taking care of your issue.

3. Know who you need to talk with to get an issue resolved
What happens if the person you are speaking with cannot solve your problem? You have several options and it all depends on the nature of your problem. Many times the customer service associate is only allowed to help so much, as they are limited in what they can do. At this point, if you feel you are in the right, request to speak to a supervisor. Thank the customer service associate for all he has done for you but you need to speak to a supervisor to see if the supervisor has more tools to help you.

Another option is if you get frustrated with the associate you are speaking with, you can always thank them and end the conversation. Then call back and speak to another associate. Explain what happened with the last associate and let them know how frustrated you are.

Keep in mind that company policies may not allow a customer service representative to help you in the way you need. If this is the case, you will probably have to write a letter to get your issue resolved. When this occurs, be sure to include all the information that you gathered prior to the call or visit in the letter. This will ensure that whoever receives it has all the information they need.

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August 2007