How to get your Bill Companies to do their job!

So, dealing with Southwest gas today, I got to thinking that I NEEDED to write a post on how I personally deal with getting things done.

1) I’m a very VERY busy women. As stated in other posts, I wear many hats, that keep me busy most if not all of the time. I’m a wife, home maker, mommy, student, teacher, and career business women. I simply don’t have the time, nor the patience to deal with companies that lag at doing their job.

2) I have schedules to keep, time frames to stay on top of, and I keep them all juggled fairly well, and I don’t need an unnecessary kink in the system.

3) No one, and I do mean NO ONE messes with a hugely pregnant women who has two little ones; a toddler and pre-schooler. When my bills are paid, I expect my things to work, and not just work, but work properly. You better believe I will be proactive and persistent in fixing the issues.

So, how do I deal with these companies when there is an issue? Especially since I am very proactive about things, I keep things well oiled and maintained, and I have a system to make sure all of the bills are taken care of; in essence my bills are always paid.

1) When I call, if I’m doing something other than the basic changes, or bill payment, I almost always just give them the info they ask for, tell them VERY briefly my issue, and then request a supervisor immediately. What I’ve learned is that, no matter HOW much or HOW little information you give them, the first person you speak to, can never do anything to fix your issues if it’s outside of the basic things as mentioned previously. MOST times the second “supervisor” (which I know from working in call centers, is not always a supervisor, they are floor leads) can fix the issues, on the very rare occasion, they can not. You sort of have to know what your issue is, and kind of know how the companies work, in order to get to the right person. Minor issues above the basic changes and bill pay, these floor leads can correct. Major issues, you will just have to briefly explain the issue again, and ask for a higher supervisor. That third person (third time is the charm, right?) can almost ALWAYS fix what ever issues you are having.

2) My example currently would be with my gas company. My bill is paid, and the heater was not working. I called yesterday and after a two hour ordeal, they finally sent some whack tech out, who either didn’t care, wouldn’t do anything, or was just lazy. He didn’t fix the issue. By the time I got to call back, they said they couldn’t send anyone back out until Friday. (Mind you they charged me $15 to send a tech out to fix the issue, that wasn’t fixed.) Well, I was completely upset by that time, and had other issues I needed to face at that moment, so I said I’d be calling back. Which I did; today. When I called back I finally got to that third person, the real “Supervisor” and got an expedited “medical” reason to get a tech out today, right now. I’m hugely pregnant, and my two little ones are sick; I made sure to say they were a pre-schooler and toddler. I even made sure to tell them that both of my little ones were sick. Yes, believe it or not, the age of children and their condition, will light a fire under these companies behinds. Especially when  you explain that you can’t even make them feel better because you have a gas water heater, not electric. So that’s my second tip really, TELL THEM YOUR CHILDREN’S AGES and IF THEY ARE SICK! This is a case when “over share” will get done what you need done. She TRIED to charge me another $15. When I CALMLY explained to her that I was already charged yesterday for this, that it was not fair to charge me again, seeing as the guy didn’t fix the issue, nor did he enter my house, or was willing to do so to check on the issue, she promptly waived that fee. The one fee, okay, I mind that less, but you wont be charging me twice for the same issue, when it wasn’t taken care of the first time.

The gas guy got out here finally, and very promptly I might add, and it was a broken switch, the pilot switch to be exact. Yes, they do break, even on their own, (I’m not a gas professional, I don’t know how they work, that’s not my job. I just know how to maintain my stuff, and when they are working/not working.) In either case, he fixed it in less than 20 mins, and got on his way. My heater was working again, and I had hot water finally.

3) BE CALM! You get more bee’s with honey than you do with vinegar. Being rude, mean, nasty, and just down right applauding, wont get you anywhere, nor get anything you need done. I have learned to be calm, and low key, truthful, and direct. This seems to get the best responses. Don’t LIE to them, and don’t over exaggerate, don’t be “chipper” either; just be calm, and pleasant. I used to get so over aggregated, and you could hear the panic almost in my voice, and it never got things done, then one day I just decided to start directing them with a calm and pleasant approach, and this greatly improved getting things done for me.

4) BE FIRM! You can be firm while being calm and pleasant, you don’t have to be firm and rude. I’ve only had to call and make payment arrangements on bills a few times, and the times I have had to do that, they have always wanted me to pay what I knew I couldn’t, or on a day I knew would not happen. For example, I had to call my cell phone company once, and my bill was like $100 bucks, I totally just forgot to pay it, not a big deal, it happens sometimes, and luckily for me I’ve been a customer with them since 2008. However, they always start off with saying you have to pay x amount, then you simple state, “I’m sorry I can really only pay this amount or on this day. I have to have money for gas to get to work/school, and food. Will this amount work?” KNOW ahead of time exactly WHEN you can pay and HOW much you can pay, and stick to it. They will always haggle it down two more times before they will ultimately accept your offer. Just be nice, and keep it calm, but be firm; in the sense of standing by your offer. These companies want your money and will take it any way they can, even if it means waiting a little longer for it. Like I said, I don’t need to do that often, very rare occasions I do need to do that, because hey, I’m human, I slip sometimes and forget.

5) BE PERSISTENT! Don’t take “no” from the first person you speak to as the final solution. Refer to tip number one, remember that most times, the first person you speak to, can’t do what you need them to do. Often times it’s the second or third “supervisor” you speak to that will get it taken care of.

6) TAKE CHARGE! Yes, take charge, you pay them every month, and you expect your services to work properly. Take charge, don’t let them have the power just because they are the bill company, YOU PAY THEM! Sometimes a gentle and subtle reminder that YOU PAY them, not the other way around will help move things along. I always like to throw in “yes my bill was paid on x day, my new bill just came out/will come out on x day and I already have bill pay set up to pay on x day.” That shows them you are on top of it. Sometimes I throw in a little extra like, “I’m paying you for my gas so I can have heat during the winter and hot water, I can’t give my sick children a hot bath because the gas is not working. My bill is paid, so I really need my services to be working properly. After all it is why I pay you every month and on time.” ON an even rarer occasion I have had to get a little more “rougher”. I do have a background and connections with local media, and will say, okay, I guess I’ll have to call so and so with so and so news and tell them that you are leaving a third trimester pregnant women and her sick toddler and pre-schooler without gas for heat and hot water when our bill is paid for almost a week.” THEY Do not want that bad PR. Trust me they don’t. Although I have that connection, I suspect MOST of you know how to contact the news stations to submit stories, emergency stories, and things like “3 on your side” etc. If push comes to shove, don’t be afraid to throw that out. Be TACTFUL, calm, and firm about it. There is NO need to be rude or nasty about it.

7) BE PROACTIVE! Don’t just wait for them to do their job, constantly call them to keep them doing their job. Ask for an ETA (Estimated time of arrival) ask for the tech’s name, ask where you stand on their daily work orders. Gather as MUCH information as you can, and be sure to write this down, along with anyone’s names you have spoken to. Make sure to include dates and times you called. (If you have a cell you can always re check your call history, but just write it down for good measure.) You will NOT believe how many times I’ve called to deal with issues, and the rep did not appropriately or accurately note the account. THEY CAN pull call logs, provided you have the correct date, time, person you spoke to, and the number you called from. They CAN and WILL pull that call and listen to it. This works to your benefit!!! Trust me!

8) PLEASE & THANK YOU, go a LONG way! Sad to say that I have to actually say this, but I have seen MANY MANY people not use this! I just can’t believe how many people will not say Please and Thank you. Trust me, it will take you further and get more done if you use please and thank you.

9) ANSWER their questions genuinely. If they ask you how your day is going, or what the weather is like, then answer them with a truthful reply and genuine reply. They are just simply trying to pleasant and cut the dead air while they work their magic. It makes them feel more comfortable with you, and sympathetic to you, and will thus further get you where you want to be.

10) BE PREPARED! SOMETIMES, no matter how much you followed these tips, you will very occasionally get a road block. Sometimes you may need to be prepared to pay a bit more, or pay on a day you don’t want to, or wait until a later time to get a tech out to fix your issues. SOMETIMES, so if you have followed every tip, and you are still getting a road block, still be prepared to offer a tad more, different date, or later time. It’s called compromise. You want them to compromise with you, so be willing to give a tad bit at the end.

I hope this helps! Bottom line is, make sure your bill companies do their job and work for you, especially if you are paying your bills on time! Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and take the initiative!