6/17/2011 2:37 PM ET|
How to complain and win
- Don't go straight to the top. Writing the company's CEO is often touted as an effective way to get a problem solved -- and at some companies, it may be the only way. Going over people's heads is going to tick them off, though, and that can be counterproductive if the head office turns out to be indifferent. So it makes better sense to work your way up the food chain, giving each level a chance to fix the problem before you move on to the next. I tend to get much more sympathy from people who can actually get things done if I've tried to resolve a problem through lower channels first.
- Take good notes. Write down the names and call-back numbers, if possible, of each person you talk to about your problem. Make a note of the time of day, and keep track of any account, case or claim numbers you might need later. Better customer-service departments track each communication so you don't have to start at the beginning each time with your tale of woe, but many firms seem to be dealing with antiquated systems that don't communicate properly, or your last rep might not have entered the notes properly. Taking good notes also can help if you wind up taking the company to court.
- Get important stuff in writing. Most problems can be handled over the phone, but there are times when you want your communications to be immortalized using paper and snail mail. If the matter involves a lot of money, legal issues, taxes or your credit report, put everything in writing, and send the letters certified mail, return receipt requested. If the company makes promises -- such as removing an erroneous entry in your credit report -- get those in writing, too, since these promises can shorten the credit repair process if the bogus entry shows up again.
- Don't be shushed. As noted above, some companies are using their social media to try to shut people up rather than help them. That's long been the case with call centers that monitor how long reps spend on a call, which leads to workers who are far more eager to get you off the phone than they are to solve your problem. Once you're clear about what you want to happen, don't rest until you get the result you want or at least a reasonable proxy. The system is designed to beat you down until you give up and go away; if you're going to be a ninja, you must persevere.
On the other hand . . .
Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. If you let a dispute go to collections, you're the one who will ultimately pay. Collections can seriously damage your credit scores, and getting them removed can be an uphill battle. A better course, if things go this wrong, is to pay the disputed bill and then sue the company in small claims court.
Finally . . .
Lavish your business on companies with good reputations. If price is all you care about, you deserve the customer service you get. If you want decent help, look for companies that invest in systems that promote repeat business.
J.D. Power regularly singles out companies in various industries with above-average customer service (you can find the latest winners here). So does the National Retail Foundation, which co-sponsors a survey with American Express that interviews 9,200 people about which companies stand out for their customer service.
The federation's 2010 winners, in order, were:
3. L.L. Bean
5. Lands' End
6. J.C. Penney
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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AT&T is the worst!!!
I may have told you this story before, but AT&T once sent me a bill out of the blue because someone had called a so-called "convenience" toll-free 800# that AT&T said I had signed up for (I had not).
I called to tell them they had made a mistake (waited in queue for 15+ minutes), but the person who finally answered kept insisting that I owed them this money, and "didn't I want this service anyway because then people could call me toll-free"? (Um, no.) At this point, I was beginning to "see the light" that this was a SCAM, and that if I paid the bill (which was less than $5), it would be nearly impossible to stop future bills, so I insisted that they cancel the service & the bill.
After 15+ minutes of refusing to cancel it, and also refusing to transfer me to someone with the authority to handle the problem, he finally transferred me to a supervisor (I waited at least another 5-10 min. on hold). The supervisor again tried to "sell" me the 800# service, then said she could cancel the service, but I would still owe the $ since someone had used the # to make a call and the charge was already incurred. I again refused & threatened to turn them in to the FCC.
At that point, she transferred me (again, a 10 min wait) to someone in some offshore call center who cancelled the service & the bill in about 32 seconds. I insisted on a cancellation confirmation # and a written confirmation via regular mail, which I did receive about 10 days later.
Talk about a SCAM!! How many millions did they make off of people who probably paid the $4 to avoid the hassle, then found themselves getting another "surprise" bill 6 months later???
** Editing to add that I have not been an AT&T customer since Clinton was in office. I can't stand that company, and there is no way I would ever voluntarily sign up for an 800# service (or any other service) with them. **
The customers who can clearly tell me what the problem is and work with me to find a solution not only gets a resolution far more quickly, but also usually are happier with the resolution because I'm not guessing at what would work for them. In addition, they provide helpful information I can pass on to my manager for improvements.
Yes, I have set guidelines on what I can and can't do, but if you tell me honestly what you would like, I can usually find a way to make it happen for you.
"Once you're clear about what you want to happen, don't rest until you get the result you want or at least a reasonable proxy"
The problem I have with advice like this is that with many people what they want is not realistic. All too often I've encountered people who believe a minor inconvenience justifies huge discounts or 100% refunds. I'm all for making good on a bad experience but don't expect the world.
The best advice I can give is don't walk in guns blazing and razing hell. You're going to put the company in a defensive stance and chances are not get what you want. Act civil and most people are willing to work with you.
the idea that the "customer is always right" came from "keep that $$ in our establishment no matter what kind of abuse you take from joe public."
I agree EVERYONE should have to work in a retail/fast food job for a week & be exposed to the abuse those employees receive from the public. I'm sorry but there are times when I've stepped in (because the mgr won't) & told the customer produce your receipt or get the hell out of my way.
I was in Walmart last week a customer was screaming & yelling because he had gone over his 30day return on his product. He wanted his $$ back. The clerk explained this to him patiently 4 times. Finally she just gave him the $$ telling her co-worker her mgr would've anyway. Here's what I think went on: Family came to town he used the air mattress & after they left he returned it like so many people do w/so many various products.
People these days are filled w/rage & "me me me" when you step out into the world sorry you don't have any social skills because we're so "advanced" now but give it a try. MIND YOUR MANNERS!Oh that's right. Parents don't teach their children manners anymore so pretty soon there will be a free-for-all society. Damn I'm glad I'm old!
Talk to the foot...If you don't like the service go somewhere else. And stop your complaining.
Everyone should have to work retail and fast food for a week. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny how cheap and petty some people are. I once had a customer, when I was working for a cell company, who blamed me because she put her phone back in her purse and forgot to press "END".??? And dozens of others who complain about the price of the phone and/or service everytime I see them.
Do these knuckleheads honestly think the kid standing behind the counter at these retail stores sets the prices?
I don't complain...If I have an issue with a service or product I will call and give them the opportunity to correct the problem, if they are unable or unwilling to solve the issue I'll move on and find someone who can get it right.
I'm not wasting my time b$%#hing and moaning about a few hundred dollars, I have on several occasions told them to cancel the service and I'll pay the cancel pnlty, problem solved.
My favorite customer service story has to do with my mom, who was a travel journalist. She and my dad were in Wisconsin on an extended road trip pulling their old Honda Civic behind their motorhome, when one of the new Firestone tires they had just put on the rear axle of the motorhome shredded and punctured a fuel tank, spilling almost 40 gallons of gasoline on the road.
The repair bill (not to mention replacing the gas) was pretty steep, and Mom sent a request to Firestone asking them to reimburse her for the repair since it was their tire's defect that caused the problem. They refused. When she asked me what to do, I said to send copies of receipts for the repair and the gas along with a written request, and to include her business card. Firestone sent a check via Fed Ex within 24 hours of receiving her request.
It helps that Mom was the senior editor of two major national RV publications, and Firestone knew that if they ticked her off, they would NEVER sell another motorhome tire in the USA again. I just think it's too bad that she had to flex her muscle to get a reasonable response from the manufacturer when it was their defective product that caused the collateral damage to her motorhome.
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.
Great article Liz!!
I have been using two Roku streaming devices wirelessly for well over a year with no issues. Six weeks ago, both stopped functioning, but all other wirless devices were still functioning as expected. Over a period of 5 weeks I talked with several Roku tech support reps who tried to resolve the issue, and on one occasion was passed to a supervisor. Everyone of the Roku support folks, claimed it must be an issue with my router or my IP service. Three of the Roku techs suggested that I contact the maker of my router and ask them to add a "static" DNS. Upon calling the router maker (on three occasions, and three different support techs), and explaining that the Roku techs said to have two "static" DNS added to my router (Roku gave me two DNS numbers), the router support folks would just laugh and say there was no such thing. I even asked it they could add a the two DNS that Roku suggested, and they said that was something they could not do, it wasn't systematically possible. I also contacted my IP, and asked them if they could do that, and again was told me this is not something that could be done. After 5 weeks of run around from Roku, I went and bought an Apple TV streaming device, and within 10 minutes of hooking it up to my TV, I was streaming Netflix. Bottom line, if you are considering purchasing a Roku streaming device to watch Netflix on, please take my experience into consideration.
Have worked with the public for 47 years. But the absolute worst job I ever had was working for the State as a child support enforcement worker. Talk about anger!!! Everyone was mad all the time. I learned a whole new language using only 4-letter words. Because we were the State, we were not allowed to be anything but polite to these indescribable people. We were allowed to leave the room if they started threatening bodily harm to us. And we were allowed to hang up only after we had warned them that we were going to do it. The public has changed mightily since I went into the work force in 1964, and I am very glad I will soon be able to totally leave all these idiots to wallow in their own misery. No matter how much you stand on your head to help some people, they are never grateful, and always think you can wave a magic wand and make all their dreams come true. Thanks for listening.
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