The bill is too high, the bauble broke or the electronic wizardry of the latest toy goes on the fritz and the only recourse is to call customer service. Luckily, there are a few techniques to make it more likely that people can turn a customer service experience into customer satisfaction.
Don't yell. Don't complain without knowing what you want in return. Don't write an incoherent rambling letter or email. Don't gripe to the wrong person.
On that last point, Crowe says, "Complaining to customer service representatives and other 'minimum wage chimps,' as comedian Dan Nainan describes them, is a waste of time. They don't often have the authority to give you the solution you want, so either ask for their supervisor or go straight to the top."
Crowe had an email exchange with Nainan about his techniques. Nainan will record the call (asking permission in case it is illegal in the state he is calling) and then at the end of the call say "I'm really dissatisfied with the service you provided — I'm going to call the president of your company and complain."
And then he sends the recording to the CEO.
"You'd be surprised how effective that can be," Nainan told Crowe. "I've always believed in complaining from the top of the pyramid down, instead of the bottom up. Too many people complain from the bottom up, and that gets them nowhere."
Jia Tolentino at the Huffington Post says to work your way up to the highest manager you can. "State your experience with the company and demand an extremely large refund/credit/adjustment (if the situation warrants such a thing, which it pretty much always does)," she says. "If that doesn't work, compile a written record and send it to someone at the company who will give you money to shut you up."
Tolentino does, however, say doing this has a price: "(It) kills me softly and slowly."
Meaning, of course, this isn't an easy thing to do. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes the Force.
Ben Popken at the Consumerist talked about the "Jedi mind-control" one Consumerist reader, Lona, has over customer service representatives.
Some of Lona's tips are common. Speak calmly. Plan ahead what you want to happen. Write down the names of everybody you speak with.
Then Lona says the first thing you do is ask immediately to speak with a supervisor: "When/if they insist that they can help you, keeping your tone low and even, state again that you need to speak to a supervisor. Not want, need. If they again insist, state in a clear and calm, low tone, that they will connect you to a supervisor, now. Do not yell, shout, or raise your voice or tone. 'No. You are going to get a supervisor for me. Thank you. I'll wait.' Say 'thank you' immediately."
If the representative still won't get the supervisor, hang up and call again to get a different rep. If you get the same one, try calling an hour later.
"Do not give them your name," Lona says, "they don't need it."
Then, when you get the supervisor on the phone, Lona says to tell them: "I have a situation that you are going to fix for me today. I appreciate your patience."
If the supervisor hedges, just reassure them that they will be able to fix it. Remember, don't ask them to fix it or say "want" or "need."
Calmly tell your story without pauses and then, without giving them a chance to respond, tell them what they are going to do to fix it.
From there they may bring up policy. Make sure you get the actual policy, not their interpretation. Look for solutions that fall within the policy, but if not, say, "So how are we going to solve this issue?"
Lona says people may have to escalate it to the corporate level or another supervisor. The point is to keep calmly going higher until you get what you want.
Stern says if the direct contact route doesn't work, people can complain on the company's Facebook page. People can also send a Tweet with the company's name in a hashtag such as "#CompanyX." She does caution to not make statements you can't verify like, "Company X knowingly sells unsafe products." That could get you sued.
If a person masters techniques like these, they may not be appreciated by customer service representatives. One commenter on the Consumerist article about Lona responded this way: "I personally look forward to calls from people like this with glee, because I represent a brick wall to this mentality," commenter "Helxis" says. "'No, you will not get the solution that you think you deserve. You will get the solution that you paid for.' As far as I'm concerned, you are essentially a thief when you escalate a call up the way up to corporate so that your call costs more than the item/service you don't deserve and the company is eventually forced to 'give in.'"
"Helxis," for some reason, didn't mention the company he or she works for.