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Customer service reps are in high demand — here's how to reach them and solve your problems

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Customer service representatives are in high demand to answer questions related to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

People who are having trouble making ends meet may be reaching out to credit card companies to ask for help. Would-be travelers who must now stay home are looking to change or cancel their plans, while people across the country who are following shelter-in-place orders and practicing social distancing are ordering groceries at a higher rate.

As a result, there is a surge in the number of people who need refunds or who are having issues with grocery delivery. High call volumes mean you may have trouble getting through to a representative, and even then you may not be able to get your problem resolved quickly. 

For consumers trying to resolve these type of issues, here are the best ways to connect with companies and get your questions answered or your problem solved, according to consumer and travel experts.

Credit cards 

Many Americans are reeling after layoffs or a reduction in their working hours. Though it depends on your situation, you may be able to skip payments, avoid late fees, or negotiate a lower interest rate with your credit card company — if you can get in contact with someone who can help. 

"People are reaching out to their credit card companies to ask about payment waivers and any sort of reprieve they can get if they're having trouble making payments," says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate.

When you reach out to your credit card company, Rossman says your best option is to try a method of communication other than phone: "Online and live chats is a method that many card issuers have been making more available, and even trying your issue on social media can be a good idea. You might have a much shorter wait time."

People are reaching out to their credit card companies to ask about payment waivers and any sort of reprieve they can get if they're having trouble making payments.
Ted Rossman
Industry Analyst, Bankrate

When you do get in touch with a customer service representative, be specific about what you need and make your case for it. "You definitely need to be your own advocate. It's important to know that while there is a lot of relief available, you have to ask for it. It's not automatic," Rossman says.

He suggests being upfront about the hardships you're experiencing: "Share whatever your circumstance is; whether you've lost your job, need to cancel a trip, or if you're sick yourself," he says.

Though credit card companies may offer some leeway on a case-by-case basis and relief is not guaranteed, recognize that making a call to customer service and dealing with the problem head-on is better than avoidance.

"It's way better to be proactive and honest than it is to go delinquent and try to fix your issue two or three months from now," Rossman says. 

Airlines

Many airlines are offering more flexible refund and cancellation policies in light of stringent travel restrictions, with many carriers waiving change and cancellation fees for domestic and international travel. As a result, airlines have long wait times. Some advise that you wait until 72 before your flight before contacting them. 

Because more customers are using credit card portals to book travel, there may soon be other options: Credit card companies are working with travel companies to create workaround using a self-service cancellation option.

While there is a lot of relief available, you have to ask for it. It's not automatic.
Ted Rossman
Industry Analyst, Bankrate

If you want faster service, your best bet may be calling out the company by name on social media. Airlines like American and Delta use Twitter to interact with customer inquiries, according to Ben Mutzabaugh, senior aviation editor at The Points Guy: "Some airlines will have very robust social media teams that do respond in as close to real time as they can, while others do not have it at all."

Sending a direct message to a company's Facebook page or posting a public tweet can prove effective when you're trying to get a company's attention. Some customers have reported that they receive quicker service by tweeting at some airlines than they do by making a phone call.

If you would prefer to speak with a representative on the phone, first make sure you have updated phone numbers for your airlines. Then, to avoid the hassle of a voice menu and get routed to a real person faster, you can:

  • Choose 'existing reservation': "In theory that will help you get routed to a customer service agent faster than just randomly getting zero or saying 'agent,'" Mutzabaugh says.
  • If prompted, enter your frequent flyer number: "If you are a high flyer or elite frequent flyer, this will probably help put you higher in the queue," he says.

Shopping: Amazon, Instacart, FreshDirect

Because of shortages at brick-and-mortar stores and shelter in place recommendations, more customers have turned to grocery delivery services to stock up on food and household items. But the surge in demand for grocery delivery has left some customers with same-day and next-day deliveries experiencing delays.

And with Instacart's workers planning a nationwide strike over requests for protections during the pandemic, orders could be may be furthered delayed.

A shopper wears a face mask due to the coronavirus outbreak while browsing an aisle in the Harris Teeter on First Street, Nebraska, on Monday, March 23, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

When asked about Prime Now's limited delivery availability, a spokesperson for Amazon told CNBC in a statement: "We are experiencing an increase in demand for Prime Now and are working hard to increase delivery availability." And Instacart told CNBC that the company has seen high demand in recent days but the service remains fully operational in North America.

If your order is delayed or hasn't appeared during your scheduled time slot, start by contacting the help centers for Amazon, Instacart, or FreshDirect.

  • Use Amazon's contact portal to chat with a messaging assistant.
  • Select "report a problem" in the Instacart app or website to start a live chat or send a message to their response team. You can also email Instacart at help@instacart.com.
  • Use Fresh Direct's online form which promises to respond to messages within 1 to 3 hours during their business day.

To limit your exposure to the coronavirus when ordering groceries online, opt for contactless deliveries, wipe down containers, and tip electronically, according to Consumer Reports.

It's important to remember that "when you're contacting customer service agents, they are dealing with complaints all day long," says Michelle Couch-Friedman, executive director at Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization.

Understanding the best ways to communicate with them can make all the difference in the outcome of your complaint. 

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