The majority of Americans live on very tight budgets. More than half of people in the U.S. are living paycheck to paycheck right now. A recent survey by Bankrate.com found that 63% have no savings to cover unexpected costs. What’s worse is that 40% of the people surveyed said that they or an immediate family member had an emergency within the last year.

Fortunately, most households can pay their monthly bills. Since the recession a few years ago people have been more cautious about budgeting and getting the best deal.

But as important as price is, sometimes saving money isn’t the only priority. When it comes to the three major purchases below customer service also has to be considered.

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TV and Internet Providers

Considering that 37% of the workforce now works from home at least one day a week, Internet service plays a vital role in people’s income. The need for high-speed Internet is continuously growing, and television service is also still in demand. Providers work around the clock to keep all of their customers connected.

These days watching a sporting event or having a movie night at home is much more cost-effective than going out, but subscriptions can account for a chunk of the monthly budget. When you’re paying $80 or so a month for television and Internet service you want to make sure you get what you pay for.

Malfunctions are going to happen, but how your company handles the problem is what’s really important. For example, DIRECTV is one of today’s leaders in customer service. People can talk with Directv customer service representatives any time, any day of the week. This type of 24/7 customer service is essential for providing television and Internet users with reliable connections.

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Utilities

When the power goes out it isn’t just an inconvenience. It can be a real safety hazard, particularly for people who rely on medical equipment. You need to know you can rely on your electric and gas providers to handle customer complaints and issues quickly.

All it takes is one blackout to discover how crucial customer service is, and if your provider is equipped to meet your needs. It’s also quite common for people to have questions about their bill since the charges fluctuate from month to month. Getting answers to those questions shouldn’t be difficult.

Then there’s the technology aspect. Everyone is always on the look out for more reliable, efficient power sources. The level of service utility suppliers provide for customers that need to set up or switch to another plan can make the process painful or quick and easy. The best suppliers will also give customers tools and updates on their energy use to help them save more money.

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Insurance

Month after month you dutifully pay your insurance premiums for car, health and homeowners or renters insurance. The hope is that you’ll never have to actually use it. When you do, sacrificing customer service for a lower monthly payment won’t seem like the best investment.

Insurance is there to help you cover costs and recoup expenses or losses. Insurance companies that take forever to process a claim and are difficult to communicate with can end up costing you serious cash.

Travel insurance may be the best example. Not only have you suffered some sort of incident, but it happened while you are away from home. During times like these, you’re really dependent on the insurance company. Paying a little bit more for the insurance is certainly worth knowing the customer service team will handle things for you.

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Two Rules for Balancing Customer Service and Cost

A good rule of thumb is to make customer service the priority on anything that is an ongoing cost or long-term commitment. These are the types of purchases that are most likely to elicit a call to customer service at some point. They are also likely to involve direct interaction with the customer service team during the initial purchase and any time an update needs to be made.

Another type of purchase that should always come with stellar customer service is any high-end buy. With these types of purchases personalized, attentive service is part of what you’re paying for. If you’re going to pay upwards of $1,000 for a new flat screen TV to watch HD movies provided by DIRECTV it’s expected that the sales and customer service team will take the time to help you find the perfect equipment.