Effective Complaining to Get What You Want From Customer Service

by Justin Weinger on August 24, 2011

Because of my timid nature, I never used to complain when I was dissatisfied with a product or service. Like many of you, I just sucked it up and counted it as a lesson learned.

Lately though, I’ve started being an “effective complainer” and have been really satisfied with the results. I never attack the person to whom I’m complaining, and just simply state facts as to why I am dissatisfied as well as what I think fair compensation is in order to make me whole (i.e. make up for the fact I dealt with sub-par service or products).

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Screaming at someone from customer service isn't going to do any good. Why do you want to make her sad?

I also don’t make threats or ultimatums since the person I’m complaining to almost always is not the source of the problem.  Kill ‘em with kindness!

I think because I’ve started doing this things, I almost always get what I’ve asked for, if not more.

The tact I outline above is more or less the same guidance given in a great article on The Simple Dollar.  In a post entitled “Dissatisfied Customer? Make an Effective Complaint,” author April Dykman states the following:

But sometimes it’s uncomfortable to be the squeaky wheel. Even though I write about money and personal finance, I often avoid complaining. I feel uncomfortable being in the presence of others while they are complaining — I stopped going to lunch with a former coworker because he complained to the manager at almost every restaurant.

While that’s a little extreme, it is important to speak up. Companies want to retain you as a customer, especially if you’re reasonable and have a valid complaint. Good customer service still exists. The key is to approach the complaint process with a plan.

Dykman’s article does a great job of drilling home the point that you can’t expect results if you’re shooting from the hip; you need to clearly define not only why you are dissatisfied and why you deserve something, but also what that something you deserve is.

Dykman also goes on to talk about how you can try to get results via a social media campaign, which I think is an interesting twist, although not something I’m sure I would expect to get me the best results:

I worked at a nonprofit that monitored Twitter carefully for mentions of the organization. When a member tweeted that he was having problems registering for a company event, we reached out to him quickly to resolve the problem. Afterward he tweeted about how much he loved our organization.

Many businesses have teams of employees who monitor mentions of the company on Facebook and Twitter. As John Yates writes for The Chicago Tribune, using social media can get a quick response: “Your online complaint is…immediately visible for anyone on the Internet, a fact that can put pressure on companies to respond. Often, they will resolve the matter quickly in an attempt to mitigate the impact of your post.”

The downside? Sometimes a company will respond quickly to save face, but be less motivated to actually resolve the problem.

And then there are things like reporting the company to the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission, which is something I think most people would rather not do.

So, moral of the story, be an effective complainer in order to get results: be polite and clearly state why you are dissatisfied and what you want in return for your dissatisfaction.

What has your experience been with customer service?  Leave a comment below and, as always, please share this post using the social bookmarking buttons below and at the top of this article – especially Facebook and Twitter.

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