Many of us make efforts to speak up when we are dissatisfied with a product or purchase. Although we often do complain when frustrated or dissatisfied as consumers, studies show that less than 5% of our complaints are resolved to our satisfaction. In other words, the vast majority of us do not complainteffectively. Why are we so ineffective? We often feel that pursuing a complaint will take too much time and effort, energies we prefer to invest elsewhere in our lives. This would be reasonable except for one thing. We then spend an abundance of time and energy relating our tale of consumer outrage to an average of 10-16 friends and acquaintances.
The next time you find yourself frustrated by a product or service, follow these guidelines to get results, minimize your aggravation, and get satisfaction. Tales of consumer outrage are even more fun to relate when they have a happy ending.
1. Documentation matters. Many companies have liberal return policies which require only receipts and original packaging. Keep those on hand for at least 30 days.
2. Use social media. The number of companies who monitor social media, such as Facebook and Twitter is continually growing. If you tweet your complaint, add a hashtag (#) with the name of the company (e.g., No hot water in my hotel room and no response from manager. #Hotelname).
3. Know what you want. Have a clear idea of what would constitute a satisfactory resolution before you call. Be reasonable in your expectations. Are you looking for a refund, a replacement, store credit, a make-up gesture? Articulate what you expect the company to do to resolve the matter. Often being clear and direct makes the process shorter and simpler for all involved.
4. Civility gets results, anger does not. When calling a customer service hotline, always keep in mind the representative on the phone did not cause the problem and they can help us resolve it. We will get further by treating them as an ally and not directing our frustration at them even if it is tempting to do so. Try saying, “I apologize if I sound annoyed. I know it’s not your fault so please don’t take it personally.”
5. Know the limits of the representative’s authority. The first customer service representative we encounter might not have the authority to resolve our issue. For example, a phone company representative might be authorized to deal with disputes of up to $25 dollars, but not larger amounts. Once you present the problem, try asking “Is this something you have the authority to resolve, or do you suggest I speak to a manager?”
6. Ask to speak with a supervisor. Customer service representatives must usually adhere to strict scripts and protocols when handling complaint calls. If the representative seems unable to help you, ask to speak to a supervisor. Do so politely but firmly. Try saying, “I really appreciate your efforts but we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. I would like to speak to a supervisor.”
7. Escalate your complaint. If a call to customer service cannot resolve your problem, escalate your complaint to company executives. Go to The Better Business Bureau’s site at bbb.org where you will find names and contact information for company executives. Write or email the relevant executives directly. Be brief, factual, and businesslike when doing so. State the facts and specify what action you want them to take to rectify the situation.
For other complaining tips, including how to complain effectively to a loved one, a friend and a teenager, read The Squeaky Wheel by Guy Winch Ph.D..