How to hack customer service with 2 words.

Last week, our internet went down. Because I work from home, I couldn’t do what you do in offices, which is stand up and yell, “Is it out for everyone or just me?”

I called the cable provider and had the following conversation:

Cable guy: Whom am I speaking to?
Me: This is Jonathan Acuff. (I have to use my fancy full name on the phone.)
Cable guy: The name on the account is “Jennifer.” Can I call you Jennifer?
Me: What? No. You can’t call me Jennifer.

I didn’t care that he asked me that. English wasn’t his first language and he was instructed to follow a script. He was trying his best.

He just worked for a company that doesn’t care about customer service. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are leaning that way. They care more about getting new customers than keeping old customers.

So how do you hack customer service to make sure you have a good experience?

Easy, you use two specific words.

One afternoon, after getting the run around, Blues Traveler reference, Jenny got frustrated with a company. They called her back to fix the issue. In frustration, Jenny said, “How do I get to talk to a real person who can actually fix my problem? I don’t like dealing with so many automated systems.”

That’s when this customer service rep told Jenny a secret. It’s so simple you might not think it will work, but here it is:

If you want to hack customer service, tell them, “I’m cancelling.”

The rep told Jenny that those are trigger words. They set off an alarm for the person on the phone and ensure that your problem will be escalated. Suddenly, they’ll call you back and find discounts and offers they didn’t initially have for you.

The funny thing is, if they continue to give you terrible service, you’re going to cancel anyway, so why not be upfront about it?

If you love the service, don’t threaten to cancel. That’s dumb and it’s lying. But, when you’re ready to leave but would stay with a discount, pull out those two magical words.

Want better service? Just say, “I’m cancelling.”

P.S. You only have a few days left to order my latest New York Times Bestseller Do Over as a gift. Buy one today for a friend or yourself!

About Author

Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff


  1. Chris

    This was useful advice several years ago. Companies are on to this tactic now and have taken measures to minimize their losses with this bluff. If you can live without the company’s service, then have at it. If you want a relationship with them, there are better ways. I’ve received better service and MUCH better deals by a) being polite to the Tier 1 rep I’m speaking with (their job sucks enough without threatening to cancel my service…they’ve already heard that line five times this shift) and b) as they’re wrapping up the call with the “is there anything else I can help you with today” spiel, I always ask “are there any promotions available for me?” The rep will almost always take a moment to check all the boxes I’m eligible for.

    A year of a premium cable package? Done.

    An extra 18GB of data per month for my cell phone? Boom. Done.

    Speed boost on my internet? You bet.

    Threaten them with cancellation and they’ll yawn. Treat your rep well, and they’ll treat you well.

  2. Russ

    I have been switching between dish and directTV every 2 years. When it is time to change I simply call and say “I am switching to dish/dtv because I already have both dishes on the house and you won’t give me the new customer deal.”
    directTV has given me the current advertised promo and free NFL Sunday ticket 2 contracts in a row.

  3. Ryan Forkel

    What does it say for a company that has a “Customer Rentention Department”? That is the case with a certain large nationwide cable/internet provider.

    I can’t imagine having an entire department with the sole purpose of keeping customers, presumably because they are wanting to leave.

    Another tip. My brother in law worked management for a call center provider (many big companies hire them and others to answer customer service problems). He said that if you are not getting the answers you need just ask for their supervisor – or in their terms, escalate the call. If you are still not getting answers, continue escalating until you get someone to do something.

  4. How true that is, Jon.

    “I’m cancelling.” A friend of mine tells me that every time his cable membership is about to expire, he does exactly that and even though there aren’t discounts for old customers as there are for new customers, somehow they come up with something that entices him to stay for another year or so.

    Do you think that would work with people too? Just say to your spouse when you have had a heated argument, I’m cancelling. Or to a friend who has been holding a grudge for many months, even though you have tried to reach out and make it right, I’m cancelling. Or to your kids when they refuse to obey, I’m cancelling.

    No probably not a good idea. But maybe it’s sort of like the reset button, sometimes you just need to step back and reset the relationship, get everything on the table, and wipe it away to start afresh. It’s sort of like IT, when you have a computer problem the first question they ask is have you rebooted. Sometimes relationships need a reboot.

    So, at this joyous time of year when you feel like using, I’m cancelling, just hit reboot instead and use what that book by that author suggests, just take a Do Over. Oh yeah, that was you!

    Thanks again, Jon. Good thoughts.

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