Five Things to NEVER Say to Customer Service

The guy is a moron. Your enrollment is all messed up. You’ve got a bill from your insurance company for the equivalent of three months salary. You are having a really bad day.

We’ve all been there – and we’ve all been tempted to say things we shouldn’t because we are angry or frustrated. But some comments can be a lot more costly than they are worth in time, frustration and even money. Here are five to never make while you’re angry – or at all!

Comment #1: That’s it, cancel my plan!

In all likelihood, they won’t actually cancel the plan – but they might terminate it. What’s the difference?

A cancellation means the plan effectively never existed. The insurance company will send all your money back – and ask for the money back from any provider they paid on your behalf. If the Exchange actually cancels the plan, you will have no coverage for the year – the fact that you cancelled means that you don’t get a Special Enrollment Period. So, it doesn’t matter that the insurance company was mucking up everything – you end up with no insurance and no way to enroll in a new plan.

Because the Exchange knows all that it will almost never grant a cancellation outside Open Enrollment. However, you are the owner of the enrollment so if you tell them to, they will terminate the plan. Termination simply ends the plan, usually at the end of the month you request the termination in. 

So let’s make it clearer: 

Bob called and cancelled his plan on May 5th. The cancellation was actually done. Bob’s plan began and ended on January 1st of that same year. Bob will not receive a 1095 – and the IRS will treat it as Bob not having had insurance.

Mary called and terminated her plan on May 5th. The termination was also done. Mary’s coverage began on January 1st and ended on May 31st. Mary will receive a 1095 which will show five months of coverage.

The difference between cancel and terminate can be very expensive – make sure you tell the Exchange rep when you expect your plan to end!

One thing more – terminating you plan yourself DOES NOT open a Special Enrollment Period. If you tell the Exchange to terminate your plan then you will not be able to enroll in a different plan outside of Open Enrollment unless you have a Special Enrollment Period for some other reason.

If you aren’t absolutely sure you want your plan to end, do NOT say those words!

Comment #2: %*^$%&((&%$$

The average rep is not paid enough to take that kind of abuse – and they shouldn’t. Frankly, if you can’t control yourself well enough to carry on a polite conversation, you can’t control yourself well enough to help the rep help you. So, if you’re that hot under the collar, don’t call until you’ve calmed down. 

As angry as you are – even justifiably so – you’re not in any shape to really handle the matter. Angry people don’t reason half as well as calm ones – and if the problem is complex the rep needs a lot of information from you. They can’t get it if you’re out of control and they can’t help you like that. 

Most Exchanges will give you one to three verbal warnings before ending the call – if the rep is telling you to stop cursing and you can’t – end the call yourself and call back after you’ve calmed down. Otherwise, take a deep breath and get it together. 

IF the rep ends the call, calm yourself down before calling back. Screaming at a new rep doesn’t get the problem solved – it can get you barred from calling the Call Center, however. The Call Center is paid to help you – not be your verbal punching bag. They can and will bar callers who are consistently abusive to their staff. 

So, calm and steady win the race – call when you’ve got it together so that they can get the problem solved for you!

Comment #3: You’re INCOMPETENT!

If you really think the rep is unqualified to do the job, ask for a supervisor. Like cursing, verbal abuse is grounds for the rep to end a call – which means you end up on hold again trying to reach a new rep. 

Even if the rep doesn’t end the call, do you seriously think this person is now inclined to help you? The more abuse you heap on the rep – deserved or undeserved – the less likely they are to bother with the complexity of your issue. Why should they fill out a long form requesting a correction when they can just refer you to a broker, the website or whatever else will seem to fit the bill? You want this person on your side – venting your frustrations on them is not a way to get them there. 

Also, keep in mind, they know the system in ways you don’t – it may be all messed up but they know how to get it un-messed up – that’s why you were calling in the first place. Don’t assume incompetence – make sure you understand what you’re being told.

Kim needs her plan cancelled – there was a mistake and she is presently enrolled in two plans. Kim wants Plan X to go away as if it had never been there and Plan Z to remain as her plan. 

Kim calls and tells the rep to end Plan X effective November 12th of the previous year – because that was the date when Kim enrolled. In reality, plans don’t begin until the effective date – the first day of coverage which is usually January 1st for an Exchange plan bought in November. The rep cannot do what Kim said do – the system won’t allow it. 

The rep tries to explain but Kim becomes frustrated and insists on having it done exactly as she said. By the end of the call, they are both frustrated – and nothing has been accomplished. 

The rep can do what Kim wants done – make Plan X go away – but he can’t do it the way Kim wants it done. 

Moral: let the rep help you – they know the system. If you think they don’t, ask for a supervisor.

Comment #4: I know So-and-so

Good for you – but don’t tell the rep that. One of two things is likely to happen: first, the rep gets a negative opinion of you – and starts wanting you off his phone; second, you may trigger a policy response – and find yourself needing to actually call So-and-so or filing an appeal. 

There are some cases that call center reps aren’t allowed to touch – usually those in the appellate process and/or those that are congressional casework. If you manage to convince the rep yours is one of the kinds of cases he can’t touch you will be referred elsewhere very, very quickly. Fine if you really have such a case – a major aggravation if not.

Comment #5: I’m Going to

Threats are taken seriously – in some cases, seriously enough to call law enforcement. They will NOT get your problem solved – depending on what is said, the call may end very abruptly, a supervisor may come on the line, you may be barred from calling the call center again and/or the cops may knock on your door. 

It really shouldn’t need saying but DO NOT MAKE THREATS. Period. End of discussion – there’s no excuse and no reason to ever, ever be doing this.

For the majority of you thinking ‘duh, of course not’, yes, call centers really do get threats. It’s the reason most won’t allow their reps to identify where the call center is located.  Threats are a real issue for call centers – one they take very, very seriously.

So there you have it, boys and girls – five things to never say to a call center rep!


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