8 tips for improved turboing: customer service workarounds

A nonpracticing painter, I funnel much of my creative and service-related frustrations into The Art of Turboing, described nicely by Rob Levandowski.

Like Rob, I am a former customer service lacky, and like him I love to turbo. You should too, if you know what’s good for you: customer service is typically viewed as a business expense by most large organizations, so they structure their CS flows to end your interactions as inexpensively as possible. When dealing with Time Warner Cable recently, I realized that a CSR was simply trying to get me to call back after his shift ended. In that instance, it was the front desk receptionist who finally resolved my problems. If you’re dealing with TWC, save yourself a call and turbo from the outset.

In addition to Rob’s excellent advice, here are eight additional tactics for successful customer service turboing:

  1. Learn the organization and the lingo. Are you talking to a “CSR” or an “agent”? What department is this? What is the ticketing system called? You might have to rephrase these questions a few times to get anything valuable. Getting intimate with a company’s language avoids little communication inefficiencies that can stop you before you really get rolling.
  2. Learn the org chart. Gonna turbo? Ask the employee: What is your manager’s name? Who is the VP of this department? Get as many names as you can.
  3. Can’t reach someone? Auto-increment the phone extension. This is actually a nice place to start: find any phone number within the corporate offices, like say 867-5309, then dial one number lower and one number higher (867-5308, 867-5310). Keep dialing until you reach someone. If you get voicemail, leave a detailed message. In large organizations, this will connect you to other employees, often in unrelated departments. This is a good way to get the CEO or a VP, if you can drop a name: when random employee picks up, you just say “oh, I’m sorry, I’m trying to reach [insert name here], what is his/her extension?”
  4. Your best points of contact: public relations, marketing, investor relations, and the like. These people are the most helpful because their mindset is very different from a CSR: their careers revolve around making people love their product/service. If you’re lucky, you can find someone senior and irrational who will form an emotional bond with you and champion your case internally. Seriously.
  5. Your second-best point of contact: accounting. Weird, I know. But it works for two reasons: first, everyone internal is ultimately beholden to accounting, so they have a lot of clout (“yeah, I couldn’t process your expense report because I was dealing with that customer who keeps calling to say he can’t log in”). Secondly, it works because accountants are typically risk-averse types who don’t like to have their feathers ruffled. Customer service is definitely not in their job description, so there’s a good chance they’ll connect you with someone who can help. When they do, keep them in the loop so they keep the pressure on to get your problem resolved. For instance, if they connect you with someone who says to try A, B, and C, then call back with results, call the accountant back first.
  6. Keep calling and emailing. When you turbo, people will hope that you go away. Shock and awe with your persistence. Be friendly, but omnipresent. As soon as you reach someone, confirm their phone number.
  7. Note who, what, when for every communication, and let them know that you’re taking notes. This is a well-known one, but it’s extremely valuable. Most important info is who you spoke with, the date and time, and any promises that were made or explanations provided. Reference notes whenever possible, and get ticket/routing numbers. This creates accountability.
  8. Thank helpful people you’ve turboed. There’s a good chance you’ll need more help from them, so you want to create an amicable relationship.


  1. Although I find these tips and strategies enormously helpful, by posting them online aren’t you just encouraging more people to use them, which in turn forces companies to restrict customers’ ability to turbo? I know when people post about ways to get around auto answering phone hell then companies respond by changing their system. Just a thought 🙂

  2. I guess I’d rather that everyone knows how to turbo, so companies know they can’t hide behind hapless CSRs. As long as corporations have communication channels, turboing will be an option.

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