6/17/2011 2:37 PM ET|
How to complain and win
When you have a problem with a company's product or service, there are right and wrong ways to try to get it solved.
I pride myself on being an effective complainer. But AT&T almost brought me to my knees.
The details are too convoluted (and boring) to dwell upon at length, but the short version is this: My home office phone number got swiped by another carrier. For three long weeks, AT&T promised, and repeatedly failed, to get my number back.
I spent hours with AT&T's call-center representatives in the Philippines, all of whom cheerfully assured me they could solve my problem. None actually did.
Social media came to my rescue. I finally blogged about the matter and sent a link to an AT&T media representative who deals with bloggers. At the same time, my blog post went out on Twitter. Shortly thereafter, I heard back from both the media rep and one of AT&T's Twitter specialists.
It took a few more days, but I got my number back.
Getting a problem fixed shouldn't be so hard, but that's life in this modern world. Corporations pour millions of dollars into advertising campaigns to lure new customers, then fumble the follow-throughs. Customer service doesn't directly create revenue, so too many companies tighten the purse strings and cheap out on the call centers that have to deal with people when the product or service malfunctions.
Some companies are even learning how to use social media to thwart, rather than help, complainers. Tweet or post about a problem, as I did, and their social media representatives will publicly apologize, promise to help -- only to do nothing. The idea is to shut up the complainer rather than solve the problem.
So how do you get a problem solved? You need to complain effectively and tenaciously follow through even when companies drop the ball. Here's how to do it:
- Pick your battles. In many cases, you'll have to invest considerable time and effort to wring what you want out of a dysfunctional customer-service system. It may not be worth the stress. If you're on the fence, review your own role in the mess. Did you expect five-star service from a two-star hotel? Or order something from an online retailer without checking its reputation and return policies? Sometimes it makes more sense to chalk up a bad experience as a lesson learned and move on.
- Know your rights. If the product or service involves a contract, warranty or guaranty, scour the fine print that came with it. You aren't required to limit yourself to the remedies prescribed in these documents, but you should at least know what the company promised. You also should find out who regulates the company, and whether you have additional consumer rights under federal or state law. If you're dealing with a collection agency, for example, you should check out the Federal Trade Commission's summary of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as well as your state's laws regarding collections. If you used a credit card for the transaction, you may have additional protections, such as extended warranties, and at the very least you'll have a third party that may be able to help you resolve a dispute.
- Get a human. Serious customer-service problems can't be solved by computers, yet companies increasingly try to foist you off onto their automated systems because it saves them money. Many of these systems are poorly designed, and some are downright hostile. I recently ran into one of the latter -- a billing service for physicians called Consultants for Pathology and Laboratory Medical Services that hangs up on you if you dial "0" trying to connect to a human being. I had to call back several times and try different options until I hit on one that connected me to a person. Websites such as GetHuman can help you do an end run around bigger companies' customer-thwarting phone systems.
- Be concise, clear and calm. The company may have ticked you off seven ways from Sunday, but enumerating each and every one of its faults will make you sound like a crank. So will overt displays of anger, including cursing, yelling and calling the rep names. Find your inner happy place, stay calm and get to the point. State precisely what the problem is and how you'd like it fixed. If you're writing an email or letter, use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation; if you can't manage that, ask a friend who's a good writer to do it for you. A communication filled with misspellings and typos is a lot easier to dismiss than one that looks as if it came from an educated person who appears reasonable and sufficiently intelligent to cause real trouble if not placated.
- Enlist the rep. Call-center workers get yelled at -- a lot. Stand out by being nice, and you may well get better treatment. Sometimes just asking, "What would you do if you were in my situation?" is enough to trigger the reps' helper instincts, since you've appealed to them as the experts rather than treating them as part of the problem. But don't hesitate to move on if it becomes clear the rep is a powerless or incompetent drone -- just do so nicely. "I can tell you're doing everything you can to help me, but we're not making much progress. Is there another department that might be able to solve this?" I've found that asking for "another department" works better than asking for a supervisor, since many call-center workers get punished for turning too many calls over to their bosses.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
What they heck is hyperlink? I spend time responding to a post or article and keep getting messages that I am being blocked as spam. Are only certain opinions welcome here?
I have used these techniques multiple times. Once it earned me a 10% discount on a meal. Another time, the charge for the DSL router was removed from my phone bill, for good, and a $25 credit.
On the other hand, I always try to tell people who give me good service, that they did so. I once flew from Seattle to Tampa, with a plane change in Denver. We left Seattle late, they held the plane in Denver and I just made it. I didn't expect my luggage to come home that night, but it did. I wrote an eMail to the airline and expounded on my pleasure of the baggage handlers in Denver. Hopefully, that helped someone get a raise.
Have a great day everyone!
I like Articles like this.
Don't buy Reliance Water Heaters they are a ripoff. I bought a new 30 gallon gas water htr. that was defective, it would not light (gave an over heat fault code), called their Tech Support and went through lighting procedure with them and they confirmed it was a bad gas valve. They told me they would over night a new one on Monday (this was Sat.) was called on Monday and told they could not ship until Tues. or Wed. I was hot (pardon the pun). I received the new valve Tuesday. I called and asked what paperwork I needed to send them to get the plumber paid for his service of replacing the valve, I was informed that they labor cost was on me, their warranty doesn't cover labor. They told me I should have purchased an upgrade product and that I should have read their warranty. I tried to tell them this was not a warranty issue it was a defective "NEW PRODUCT" their reply was it is still warranty because it was installed. IF I HAD KNOWN IT WAS DEFECTIVE, I WOULD NOT HAVE INSTALLED IT!
This is not quite as bad as it sounds, I am a plumber and installed it. The house was occupied but the renter was out of town, but would be back on Sunday evening, so he was only out for 2 days (2 days too many). Reliance labeling says do not return defective merchandise to store, I would have anyway and they would have taken it back but I had to install it a difficult location and prefered not to remove it (would have cost move in the long run). My supplier got the same song and dance.(they will no longer sell that product).
Long story short, if this would have been the average homeowner they would have been without hot water for 4 days, with a new water heater that didn't work or in litigation with a plumber that wanted to be paid for his additional time to repair a defective new htr.
I know there are other solutions but none pleasant or would have solved the problem any sooner.
As a customer service rep I must admit that if someone calls in screaming, yelling, cursing....I'M NOT GOING TO HELP THEM. I'm going to assure them lots of things (because thats a CSR's real job: assurance. Not solving the problem in question, which is almost always handled by another department or supervisor) then i'll send their complaint to a department who equally does not give a sh*t and let them sit at home and think about how their bad attitude got them nowhere.
As a customer, if I get bad service I drop the product and the company. I don't complain about it. && I CERTAINLY DO NOT, call customer service and yell like i'm 6 years old. Seriously. I WANT WHAT I PAY FOR. IF I DONT GET THE SERVICE I EXPECT THEN F*** THEM.
The stores are Officemax, Staples, Hobby Lobby, and I tell them this is against the law, it's discrimination, you let your friends buy more, they tell me they make the rules.
I called corporate and they took the information, but never called or emailed me back.
Anybody else experience this poor service or been treated like this?
But to be fair some people who call in don't even give you a chance to assist them, I've had a few callers here AND from abroad that call in raging.Most of the time its an error on their part or something we can't control(Your internet carrier just went down and its my fault?). Its true,about the honey. You call me and start off by telling me how worthless the company is or I am, I'm not going to bend over backwards to make you happy. If you call as a rational person and work with me I will do whatever it takes, or find the person who can, to make sure your taken care of.
By far, AT&T provides the worst customer service. I changed plans to receive a lower rate on my landline. I was told the new plan was about $30/month cheaper, but was not told that my old AT&T phone line would requires new jacks or that promised gift card would take 2 months. My initial new bill was 2-1/2 times higher than my old bill. When I complained, I was told bill was correct and that new "lower rate" would show on next bill. When I requested that AT&T come and remove ALL of their equipment from my home, manager immediately removed all extra charges from my bill and offered me a credit.
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Quotes are real-time for NASDAQ, NYSE and AMEX. See delay times for other exchanges.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Thomson Reuters (click for restrictions). Real-time quotes provided by BATS Exchange. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Interactive Data Real-Time Services. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by SIX Financial Information.
Hurricane season is coming. But storms can happen at any time. Here are six smart things to do to get your home ready before the storm hits.