Over the years many of us have had the opportunity to obtain service from another person for goods and/or services ranging from pumping gas, ordering fast food, arranging travel, tech support in any capacity, or speaking with a local utility. Many of these transactions can be pleasant or unpleasant regardless of outside circumstances based upon the customer service aspect alone. This is a small guideline (or perhaps a personal wish-list) for those who wish to keep these experiences as a customer and a service provider as positive as possible.
1. Speak with a smile and use voice inflection. Regardless of your disposition, an aggressive tone tends to shut people off to your cause. If you are providing service this will cause your patron to not want to talk to you and your business will lose money (or your job if it happens too frequently). If you are a customer this may cause the person providing the service to you to not want to speak with you and deny any requests or cause a very short and terse conversation as a reaction to your attitude. Smiling whilst speaking is a fantastic way to brighten your outward appearance (physically and audibly) and help make the conversation just a little more pleasant, plus when you add a more pleasant voice inflection it gives the appearance that you actually care (regardless if you are even paying attention or not). Customers and customer service representatives don't generally get angry with people that sound happy and are seemingly paying attention regardless of the situation.
2. Read and understand the fine print before you agree to it. Many companies have Terms and Conditions, aka fine print or T&C, that governs the products you purchase. Certain conditions such as non-refundable, non-cancelable, non-transferable, photo ID required, time restrictions, as well as location restrictions and age restrictions. These terms are there to not only protect the company providing the service/products to you but to protect your interests and rights as a consumer from people that would defraud you. Knowing these terms and understanding that many companies do not bend them for simple convenience based reasons will make your purchase process and their customer service process much simpler.
3. Shop around before committing and don't be afraid to look in multiple places for the best deal. Most customer service representatives will be more than happy to discuss one or two options in person or over the telephone, but refrain from monopolizing their time for too long as other people are shopping too and may require the same assistance you are receiving. You'd be amazed at how different prices can vary on the same product, as well as how many companies have items like a price guarantee or a price match option. It never hurts to ask what the terms are, but make sure if this is something you are interested in make sure you get all the details or it won't work when you try to use it.
4. Know all your details before you buy. If you are purchasing something age sensitive, gender sensitive, or something date sensitive you need to make 100% certain you have all the details or those T&C mentioned above could come back to bite you. Leaving dates "general" or not knowing full names, birthdates, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses can leave you in a bit of a lurch especially if what you're purchasing is time sensitive or nonrefundable. If you guess and get it wrong there could be penalties involved in fixing the issue (if fixable at all, airline tickets can't change names once issued).
5. If you have an issue kind words go further than yelling and a bad attitude. Please understand that you are speaking with human beings on the other end of the phone, and just like you they generally don't respond well to angry demands and general abuse. You can still get your point across if you have an issue or that you feel you may have been dis-serviced, please refrain from calling anybody names as this will only strengthen the customer service representatives resolve to NOT help you fix your problem. Also make certain that you are calling about something they can help you with in the first place and not get mad if what you're asking has already been covered in the T&C you may or may not have reviewed when you paid for the service/product. Now, please don't be offended by any customer service individuals if they are in good spirits and you're not. They understand the gravity of your situation and are indeed trying to help you, they are simply trying to keep the best attitude possible in the face of adversity.
The number one complaint of many people regarding certain companies is the (lack of) customer service, and in many instances those same companies customer service individuals have similar gripes about the customers for many of the same reasons. Please do us all a favor and spread a little kindness, or at least tone down the negativity, so the rest of the world can get on with their day and feel good about putting food on their family's tables and a roof over their heads.
I'd love to share some horror stories (from both CS and customer perspectives), but that's just unprofessional. Maybe I'll save that for another time :)