|by Jason Steele|
There is a scene in the movie “My Cousin Vinny” where the cousin of the title character is explaining to his friend why this person was born to be an attorney. He tells the story of the time that Vinny watched a magician’s act. After each trick, Vinny would shout out the secret as to how the illusion was performed. This kind of observation, he explained, was just part of the family culture.
In my family, we have another game we like to play. We like share tips about how to manipulate companies into giving us what we want and feel we deserve. When we learn a new trick, we proudly share it with each other so that we may all benefit when the time comes. That said, everything we do is strictly legal and ethical. Allow me to share the latest trick we learned.
Informing Customer Service
Some relatives of mine were returning home after a trip overseas. Some members of the party were traveling on tickets earned from frequent flier miles while others were on paid tickets. The only frequent flier seats available at the lower mileage rates required a change of planes at JFK airport in New York, even though there was non-stop flight to their destination. At the airport, they inquired as to whether or not there was space available on the non-stop flight. They were assured that there was, however some members of the party would have to pay a change fee while others would need to contribute additional miles in order to change their reservation. The check in agent assured them that those were the correct policies.
My family member patiently listened to the agent recite the policy, and then responded, “Allow me to give you another piece of information.” My relative then proceeded to mention that the members of the party had been flying this route frequently, that they held status with the airline, and that they had been frequent customers for decades. They then politely asked the agent if it would be possible to check with her manager to see if they might be able to switch flights to the non-stop.
DYKWIA is a popular acronym on travel boards like FlyerTalk. It stands for Do You Know Who I Am. The term is always used in a derogatory fashion to refer to people who are trying to break the rules by pretending that they are extremely important. Invariably, these people have an overinflated ego and are otherwise of little consequence. The beauty of “Allow me to give you another piece of information,” is its modesty. DYKWIA is an implied threat that the low paid, front line customer service agent will have their job threaten by a pompous customer. “Allow me to give you another piece of information.” is merely a request to search their systems to for information that they can use to justify doing what the customer requests. It replaces the adversarial DYKWIA with a cooperative suggestion. In this way, the customer and the customer service agent are on the same side, battling a corporate policy that is clearly not serving the present interests company of the customer. In the above scenario, it is much more likely that the flight to New York was overbooked while the non-stop flight to my family’s final destination had plenty of space. If that was the case, everyone came out a winner. By offering “another piece of information,” my family gave the agent the leverage needed to appeal the decision to her supervisor.
How This Can Work For You
Companies are often referred to as if they were individuals. Businesses are just loose groups of people,who’s main connection to each other is through an information system. These systems cannot possibly inform everyone of everything, and it is unlikely that each person you interact with even has a chance to try to gauge your history with their employer. This is as true for airlines as it is for banks. When you call up your bank and ask them to lower your interest rate or waive a fee, you may be denied initially. By offering “some more information,” you can prompt the agent to dig a little deeper into your file and discover something that they can use to support your request.
As an institution, a company is only interested in making as much profit as possible, but individually, customer service agents probably just want to help you so long as you are nice to them. If they were allowed to do so, most customer service agents would probably say, as Jerry McGuire famously pleaded, “Help me help you!” By offering additional information rather than attempting to pull rank, you can do just that.