Maybe your washing machine is broken, or perhaps the mold removal crew that was supposed to spray down your basement has stood you up three times in two months. Maybe you just have really bad luck when it comes to products and services.
Regardless, there are things you can do to take control of the customer service experience and get the results you need. Here are five:
1. Know Whom to Contact
Getting a phone number for a human being is proving to be more difficult each year, as many companies rely on FAQs, community forums, “live chat” windows and email communications to troubleshoot various problems.
While you can still find a general “800” number for most businesses, others get sneaky and hide those numbers, so they’re not so easily found.
Another invaluable resource for consumers is Consumerist.com. A subsidiary of Consumer Reports, Consumerist publishes stories from average people who’ve had good and (mostly) bad experiences with specific companies. You might be able to find a trick or two from someone in a similar boat as yours.
They also have a directory of the companies they’ve covered, including phone numbers, CEO names and email addresses.
2. Be Nice
Customer service reps deal with angry, yelling callers all day. Do yourself a favor and be nice to them, especially when the call begins.
If you start out by screaming at them and why they’re stupid doo-doo heads who need to fix your problem now, they’re not going to want to help you and may even hang up on you.
Getting frustrated is fine, especially if you preface your complaints with, “I know this isn’t your fault,” as it assures the person on the other line you’re not angry at them, just at the situation. But don’t yell at them as if you blame them for your misfortune – it won’t lead you anywhere good.
Once you’ve established a rapport with them, clearly explain your situation and how you’d like them to fix it.
Helpful Tip: Write down your “script” before you call for help. Having a clearly-written account of the problem, what caused it and how you’d like the customer service person to fix it will make you sound less angry and more in control.
3. Ask for a Supervisor
Once in awhile, you’ll have to pull rank and ask to speak to someone higher than the person currently on the line. Sometimes, the lower-level reps can “miraculously” find a solution you like in order to avoid bothering their superiors, or they’ll actually put you through. In that case, calmly explain your situation and if they still don’t relent, keep asking for higher-level people.
Should the supervisor deny your request, move on to step four.
4. Public Shame
The Internet is a beautiful thing for consumers, as it gives us unfettered access to a variety of ways in which to publicly embarrass any company that has wronged us.
Does the offending corporation have a Twitter account? Mention them in an angry tweet that explains your problem and see if they respond. Many companies, like Comcast, understand the issues with public tweets, so they respond rather quickly. Others require more motivation to act.
Another tactic is to seek out the email addresses of company executives and/or higher-level customer support representatives. Compose an email that entirely explains your problem, then CC firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure you don’t BCC Consumerist, as you want these company execs to see that address in the To: field. Many large businesses are familiar with Consumerist and want to avoid getting on there at all costs, so seeing that email address should be the kick in the pants they need to take action.
Finally, you can copy-and-paste that email into a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The Bureau should contact the company in question regarding the complaint and help you resolve the issue.
5. Publicize When They Get it Right
Once you’ve received restitution for your troubles, make sure to let people know how you were helped. It’s easy to tell your friends, families and followers about the problems you had, but always take the time to follow-up with acknowledgement for the good deeds done.
By advertising your good fortune, you’re doing two things: 1) You’re telling the world that the company helped you out and other consumers should trust it to do the same for them. 2) You’re showing good faith in the company, which might make them more likely to work with you in the future should another problem arise.
Now, if all else fails and you can’t get results, then keep calling and keep complaining. Get loud and get angry, because that’s all you’ll be able to do at this point. Hopefully, though, you won’t need to, as the tips above should’ve helped you resolve your conundrum already.