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How to complain to customer service

Updated on December 11, 2010

Get what you need from customer service.

Problems with customer service? I once had Nestle pay me $1000 for dental work after biting a 70c candy bar. It's all in how you go about it. Use my tips to get your problem resolved and your blood pressure back to normal.

Angry: Try not to seem like you are.
Angry: Try not to seem like you are. | Source

Role reversal.

Before we go into preparation, here's a clue to my approach to dealing successfully with customer service complaints. You need to reverse the roles.

The job of a customer service rep is to manage you. They reflect your concerns with the right tone of voice and will likely apologize for something they have no personal part in. By treating you as an emotional being in need of having your feelings acknowledged they solve your problem to their satisfaction, not yours.

To get the result you want (or better) you need to reverse the role. You manage them. They expect you to want emotional reflection. Politely brush it aside. Get back to the issue at hand. Clearly explain your issue. Don't talk about how the problem makes you feel. Don't use the same language you would with a friend. You are talking to a person, granted, but they represent a corporation. You are in effect talking to a corporation. Corporations do not have feelings, they do not need emotional reassurance. Neither should you.

This puts you on an more equal footing for the rest of your engagement with them and allows you to assume the role you'll need to play to achieve your aim.

Play your part.

You are not an outraged customer about to jump ship unless you get what you want.

Be like this and all you'll get is anger management and you'll have to look for another company to provide the service you've already paid for. The rep will have dealt with a 'difficult customer' and done their job, even if you don't stay.

You are a very loyal, but bemused, well meaning customer with a genuine concern.

Here's where you take control. By understanding that the rep wins when he or she turns you into a happy customer, you manage them. Present yourself as the potential perfect win, a customer who is happy but for this one problem. Don't tell them how to solve the problem (ie: money back, discount etc), let them come up with the idea. This way, everyone wins.

Use their promises.

Being as you are, loyal and otherwise happy, you've read their company motto and you believe it! It's We're there for you, or Your business is our passion or something equally grand, quote it back to them. It puts the onus on them to meet their promise:

"I'm confused really. I mean I've always thought Acme Corp Dishwashers represented quality and reliability. Your company motto is Quality and Reliability."

If their motto isn't appropriate go to the website and click on 'contact' or customer service. Look for promises.

"Hertz is committed to providing our customers with the highest level of service."

"It doesn't matter if you make your hotel reservation online at or if you make a hotel booking through a discount hotel website or at the hotel directly; our customer service center will insure that you are properly taken care of."

"Macy's: Our customer service section will help you answer any and all of your questions."

Prepare your case.

Get your facts straight. Write down dates. Be clear and calm by having it clear in your mind what happened when etc.

These days every call you make will be recorded or notes will be made of your call. This can be disconcerting if you are not clear on your version of events because they will be.

Use this to your advantage. Make an initial call. Ask a few questions about your concern but don't ask for a solution. Remember, you are loyal, but bemused. If you've made a number of inquiries and the problem has not been resolved its more likely to be escalated to a supervisor.

You've arrived.

Now that you've remained calm, called a few times, quoted their own promises back to them and your problem is still not resolved you can ask to speak to a supervisor, duty-shift manager or simply call it in as a complaint and ask to be directed to the complaints department.

Supervisors and complaint handlers are better trained and have more power to fix your issue. When it's got to them they'll read your file. They'll see you're a loyal customer bemused by a lack of resolution and they'll likely make a decision in your favor.

I wish you luck in resolving your customer service complaint or getting your money back or whichever you hope to achieve. Just remember to remain in control by being polite at all times.

Please leave a comment if you've had trouble with customer service. I'd love hear from you. If the problem is on-going, maybe I can help.


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      It's so easy to flare out when given dismal service. But thanks to this hub, we now know there's a better choice. Of course thrashing the store can make me feel good for a time, but I don't think it's productive. Can't wait to read more hubs on this topic.

      BTW, love the Shitzu

    • dericox profile image

      dericox 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      No need to worry at all. I have subscribed to follow you. :-)

    • Fertile Forest profile image

      Fertile Forest 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thank you dericox, had me worried for a moment there

      But ended up pleased you found it's good approach.

    • dericox profile image

      dericox 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      This was an interesting article, actually. I have worked in call-center management many years, so I have dealt with difficult customer situations the majority of my customer-service life. While it is never acceptable for a company not to deliver on its commitment, I will say that if we had more customers who brought their complaints in this fashion, the resolution process would be faster and would end up creating promoters as opposed to detractors, or customers who badmouth the company to as many people as possible.

      Thanks for this great article.

    • Fertile Forest profile image

      Fertile Forest 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      What a fantastic comment. I only hope I can do justice to your very generous praise. Thank you!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      Good, practical, mature advice. Too many people never grow up and wind up living their lives based on their feelings. Great writing with an even greater ending. I predict that you will go far. :)