Constructive Complaining

Everyone has had issues dealing with poor customer service.  I often find that I spend a lot of time trying to resolve issues (and even more worrying about them).  From dealing with untrained support staff to long hold times, it’s difficult to get what you want.  most of use often give up out of frustration.  And, some companies (the short-sighted ones) are perfectly happy with that.

MSN Money published an article entitle 6 Strategies for Successful Complaints.  Most of these are good things to keep in mind.  I could add my own techniques to the list (most of these can be very effective):

  • Seek sympathy: Ask the other person, “What would you do if you were me?”  This one works wonders.  It makes even some of the most jaded customer service representatives start feeling like a human being.  How can they respond?  “I’d be happy that I received poor service and was over-charged.”  Unlikely. 
  • Align: Make it you and the other person against the problem (rather than you vs. customer service).  You have issues with the service/product that must be resolved.  The other person has rules, regulations, policies, etc. to deal with.  However, that’s the problem – it’s not the representative, it’s their training and limitations.
  • Escalate: Don’t waste time with people who can’t resolve the problem.  When you’re told, “I’m sorry, I can’t give you a refund”, you can politely ask for someone who can.
  • Be firm but polite: Yelling, screaming, and using derogatory remarks are generally the result when emotions get the best of you.  Simple statements like, “That’s unacceptable to me” can be just as effective as a long tirade that repeats your entire story and how you feel about it.
  • Stay focused: It’s all too easy for a conversation to turn to an argument and then escalate into a battle.  Stay focused on the problem and your intended resolution.  And, don’t dilute the message or provide Customer Service with an “easy out” by making idle threats or accusations.

Overall, I think the most important thing is to try to remain objective.  We all have a tendency to feel personally attacked when we’re wronged.  That frustration, however, won’t necessary help in resolving the problem.  Persistence has its hidden benefits, as well.  Time you spend talking to Customer Service staff is costly to call centers.  Even the bills for long distance calls and call routing can be huge.  Generally, if you’re persistent, you’ll get some type of resolution.  In a future posting, I’ll talk about some last forms of resource for when nothing seems to be working.


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