Complaining to customer service is a notoriously frustrating process, so it’s no wonder that consumer advocates often refer to customer service as “customer no-service.” But it is possible to complain to a company and win, or to at least get something in return for your trouble. While there are no guarantees, and some companies will treat their customers badly no matter what, the right approach to speaking to customer service can go a long way. Here’s the right way to complain:
Odds are good that you’re going to be angry by the time you call a customer service representative, but being angry will get you nowhere fast. Think about it this way: are you more likely to give something to someone who screams at you or to someone who asks nicely? The employee you speak to likely had nothing to do with your mishap, so don’t blame them. Instead, getting them to like you and to see you as a person who is reasonable is more likely to make them want to help you. Moreover, if you’re super-nice to a customer service representative, they may even be willing to bend the rules to help you.
Explain the Problem Clearly
While you may be tempted to explain every way the company has failed you or every person you have talked to, try to keep your explanation of the problem brief: only two or three sentences. Customer service representatives deal with hundreds of people a day and may lose track of what specifically your problem is. Make it easy for them to understand what has gone wrong.
Ask, “What Can You Do To Make This Right?”
Asking the magic question, “What can you do to make this right?” or, “What can you do to keep me as a customer?” gives the customer service representative a chance to do the right thing. It also forces them to answer with a solution or to say that they are willing to do nothing. Forcing someone to say that they are willing to do nothing can, in and of itself, give them a reason to help you.
Suggest A Solution
Many people call customer service without knowing what they want. If you’re going to be irate no matter what the company does to help you, they have little incentive to help you. Instead, suggest a fair solution. Ideally, you can suggest several solutions, which can help you seem reasonable.
Draw on Experience
Mentioning something positive about the company from your past experience can be helpful. It reminds the representative to whom you’re speaking that you’ve been a loyal customer and that they don’t want to lose you. Say, “I’ve always counted on your company to provide great service and you always have. I’ve been a loyal customer for x years/months/whatever for that reason, but I’m afraid if we can’t make this right I will no longer be a customer at all.”
Speak In Person
If talking to a customer service representative on the phone is going nowhere fast, thank them for the time and get off the phone. Then meet with someone in person. Go to your bank branch, insurance company, or retail store to complain in person to someone who can help you. Complaining in person is often much more effective, especially with financial and insurance companies. You are more likely to speak to someone with the power to help you, and it’s a lot harder to be rude and tell someone no in person than it is over the phone!
Send a Letter
If all other options have failed, it’s time to send a letter to someone higher up in the company. If the company is small and local, contact the owner directly. Otherwise, you should contact the vice president or the manager of the division of the company with which you are having a problem. Be polite and succinct, and request that they respond within thirty days.
If all else fails, it’s time to vote with your feet. Take your business elsewhere and don’t look back!