I just got off the phone with a Comcast rep. A promotional deal on my Internet service had run out and I wanted to jump on the next promotion if possible. By the end of the fifteen minute conversation, I had upgraded my Internet from 150mbps to 200mbps and cut my costs by nearly $30 a month with little effort. I was flabbergasted at how friendly and efficient the two reps were.

Comcast definitely suffers from multiple-personality-disorder. The last time I tried to return to an existing promotion, I was shuffled between three other reps and told different, and mostly contradicting, information. I was on the phone for 45 minutes politely, patiently, arguing my case and waiting on the line to get transferred to one of their supervisors.

It is a shame that proper customer service, like the experience I related at the beginning, is something considered out of the ordinary or worth celebrating. My Facebook feed always has one person complaining about how COMPANY X screwed up an order or had them jump through hoops.

We feel like this is the norm, and present a very Pavlovian response when faced with the mere prospect of speaking to a customer service agent. We raise our hackles and prepare our fight or flight response.

I no longer think every experience with customer service needs to turn out this way. After years of dealing with generally bad customer service from Comcast, Charter and HP (ask me about the 4 printers I returned), I've gotten quite good at it. I've learned to remain calm, polite, even downright cheerful while still getting what I want. Here are some tips that almost guarantee me a good outcome every time:

1. Don't Get Angry

Don't do it. Don't get angry at the agent on the line. Just don't...it doesn't help anyone, and it certainly won't endear you to them. Remember that 95% of the initial company representatives you speak to on the phone are working from a script and have only a certain number of prescribed actions they can take. They may not have the power to do everything you ask, but they can push it up the chain.

2. Remain Firm in Your Request

In my conversation with Comcast, I explained the current service wasn't cost effective and that I'd love to hear their alternatives. I let them go through their spiel asking how I use their services, what other services I may be interested in and so on, but the conversation was always pointed toward reducing costs. They were aware of this throughout the call. That leads me to the next point.

3. Flirt a Little

No, not with the rep, but with the services. This may sound like it directly contrasts with #2. While I want to remain in control of the conversation, I will always let them say their piece. This goes back to that "they're reading from the script" point I made earlier on. Even if you're not interested in other services, let them go through their spiel. They're almost always required to mention certain things anyway. However, I've found that if you're a receptive customer, they'll be more likely to mention all your options.

4. Be Patient

This is really hard for some people, but also the second most important component. You'll be put on hold, you'll get disconnected. It sucks. It shouldn't be this way. I get it, and I agree with you 100%. I'm not saying that you shouldn't mention the long waits or hard-to-understand representative in those post-call surveys companies love to give so often, but don't allow yourself to get frustrated during the waiting period. Don't become crabby and short with the representative.

5. Be Polite. Be Courteous. Be FRIENDLY

Notice a pattern here? It's almost as if the person on the other line is a living breathing human being, rather than the audible incarnation of Comcast, Destroyer of Worlds, Devourer of Internets. Chat with the customer agent, and don't just order them around. They spend their day dealing with people who only call when there's a problem. Don't be another one of those guys. I've noticed this is extremely effective, and coupled with #4 probably the most important thing that people don't traditionally do.

6. Ask For Their Manager

Finally, if the current representative can't get you what you want, politely (but persistently) ask for a manager or supervisor. This can be daunting, and companies have built in policies that make this harder than it should be, but it’s absolutely crucial. While using Charter in San Luis Obispo, I had to deal with higher management several times when dealing with our Internet service constantly cutting out. Once I got up to the manager level (and memorized their name!) things went much more smoothly. Once an issue is escalated to that level, they usually check in afterwards and pay more overall attention to your account.

7. Don't Let Them Ignore You

Be friendly, patient and kind. Then, when it is obvious they will not fix a reasonable problem in a reasonable time period... make it very obvious that ignoring you, their customer, isn't a good idea. No, don't write venomous posts or publish executive addresses. Continue to be constructive, but do it in a fashion that they cannot ignore.

When Charter failed to resolve our terrible service disruptions, I contacted the Better Business Bureau. The next morning a supervisor from Charter contacted me, demanding (politely) to know why I went straight to the BBB instead of talking to them first. They were happy to help with whatever issue I had. I explained we had been without Internet for over two days, and that our disruptions ranged between 30 minutes to 6 hours at a time, several times a day. I listed off the supervisors I had spoken to by name and how they had failed to take appropriate action.

You know what happened? Our Internet started working. It wasn't perfect, but we had better consistency. I had representatives contact me several times in the following weeks to ensure things were going well.

I'm not saying any of these will be the magic bullet for whatever problem you're encountering, but I've had exceptional success following closely to the above guidelines.

For the record, I've never been rejected for a nice promo deal at Comcast, even though one or two agents fought me for it. I even got pushed onto a deal when I was still technically in an old promotional deal time period, which usually isn't allowed. You never know if you don't try! But be polite, friendly, patient and persistent!

Best of luck!