.How to Complain and Get Results

How to Complain and Get Results

Making Your Money Last August 29, 2019  From Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

By Pat Mertz Esswein, Associate Editor

Impersonal customer service makes it hard to get help. Here's the script for success.

Taking a complaint to customer service can be maddening. No one wants to deal with endless phone trees, outsourced representatives working from inflexible scripts, automated responses or chatbots.

“Despite saying they provide more ways than ever to contact them, companies are building fortresses around themselves so that no one has to interact with you,” says Christopher Elliott, of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer group.

To breach the walls and successfully resolve your complaint, says Elliott, you must use the three p’s: patience, persistence and politeness. Don’t expect an instant fix, and give the company’s complaint process time to work.

Be prepared to tell your tale repeatedly, taking your complaint up the chain of command if necessary. And even if you’re frustrated and furious, make nice. Being polite will help your complaint go to the top of the pile and get you a better response every time.

Here are steps you can take to get the results you want.

Document everything. It’s still called a paper trail, even though much of the information may be digital. For any product or service for which you pay a sizable sum, keep copies of your order confirmations, receipts, contracts, work orders, warranties, service agreements and billing statements.

If you opt to get a receipt by e-mail or text, make sure you receive it and file it. Before you dispose of product packaging, remove enclosed paperwork that may include a warranty and customer-service phone number. Also remove the bar code, which you may need to obtain a replacement item, says Amy Schmitz, a law professor at the University of Missouri.

Keep copies of e-mails and take screenshots of online chats. In your first exchange with customer service, write down the reference number if one is assigned to your case. Recording the call would be ideal.

But if you can’t, take notes, including the date, time, name of the person with whom you spoke, the substance of your conversation and any promises made.

Make your point. It pays to complain as soon as you know you have a problem. The more recent your experience, the greater the weight your complaint will carry. Plus, memories fade, records get buried, and staff changes, says Nelson Santiago, of Consumer Action, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

A face-to-face visit with a local seller may quickly fix your problem. But if you’re dealing with an online retailer or a corporate office, you usually must follow its complaint process.

Go to the next level. If you’re not getting results, take your complaint up the corporate ladder. Ask a customer-service rep, “If you can’t help me, who can I call or write who has the authority to help?”

Visit company websites to search for contacts. If the obvious choice (such as “contact us” or “customer service”) isn’t helpful, try clicking on “about us,” “terms and conditions” or “privacy statement.”

On the website of the Better Business Bureau or BBB, search by the company name and look for contact information for owners and executives under “Business Details.” To bypass corporate phone trees, go to www.gethuman.com and search by company for phone numbers and shortcuts to reach a real person.

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