We’ve been on the receiving end of our fair share of customer service problems recently, so I thought I’d take the time to write up some thoughts on how best to get satisfaction when you’re faced with a company that seemingly doesn’t care…
Before we get started, here are a couple of rules:
(1) When dealing with customer service reps, always keep your cool. Be firm but polite.
(2) Write everything down. Dates, times, names, operator ID numbers, phone extensions, direct phone numbers, etc.
With that said, let’s get rolling… (I’m working from least to most aggressive here.)
First of all, I always give the regular customer service reps (CSRs) a chance to solve any problems that might arise. Unfortunately, it seems that plain old CSRs are nearly powerless when it comes to fixing problems. Still, it’s worth a shot, and you’ve gotta start somewhere. It also gives you ammunition for later, when you need to escalate your complaint to the next level. When dealing with CSRs, always be firm but polite. And always take detailed notes. Write down the date and time of your call, the name of the person that you are speaking with, their operator ID or phone extension, a direct phone number (if available — usually it’s not), as well as exactly what (if anything) they promised to do to resolve your problem.
If the regular CSR can’t solve your problem, ask them to transfer you to their supervisor. Unfortunately, these individuals are often equally powerless (or inept, depending on how you look at it). In fact, I sometimes wonder if they don’t just pass the phone to the CSR in the next cubicle rather than actually passing you up the chain. Here again, it’s important to be firm but polite. Explain exactly what you’ve been through, how many times you’ve spoken with regular CSRs, what they promised, etc. Also explain to them exactly what needs to be done to solve your problem. And always take detailed notes.
If you’ve tried the ‘normal’ channels and haven’t gotten a resolution, it’s time to step up the pressure. Don’t waste any more time with lower level customer service. Instead, call the corporate headquarters of the company with which you are dealing (more on this below) and explain to the operator/receptionist that you’re having problems that the regular customer service people can’t seem to fix. And then ask if they have some sort of higher level customer service. Pretty much every company has a ‘Corporate Customer Service’ or ‘Executive Customer Service’ team (or something along those lines). In general terms, these are the individuals that are empowered to make things right.
When you get in touch with one of these higher level reps, explain to them what you have been through and the lengths to which you have gone in search of a resolution. Also explain that they are the last stop before you go to the Better Business Bureau (if appropriate) and/or the State Attorney General’s office. And if things don’t get better, then be sure to do so — if you don’t hold companies accountable then nobody will. Here again, it’s important to get everything down on paper. That way you can drown them in details and show them that you’re serious. It will also allow you to follow up if the things that they promise don’t pan out. Note that some companies have multiple tiers of higher level customer service, so it’s possible to push things even higher if things still aren’t working out.
Finding the contact information for pretty much any publicly traded company is easy. Just hop on over to Yahoo! Finance and run a quick search on the company in question. Note that you may need to look up the ticker symbol first. Once you get to the company summary, look down the lefthand column and find the link to the company profile. This is where you’ll find their complete contact information, including the phone number to the corporate headquarters.
If your problems are still unsolved at this point, then go straight to the Better Business Bureau and/or the Attorneys General office. As far as the Better Business Bureau goes, you can even get started online. And here’s a link to a complete list of contact information for the Attorneys General offices in every state. You might also want to consider working through a site such as Planet Feedback.
This is where your written notes will really come in handy… Provide them with a complete history of the problem, as well as a detailed description of your desired resolution. To be honest, I’ve only gotten to the point of filing a complaint with the BBB once, and I’ve never had to resort to the Attorney General. Depending on the details of your story, you might even be able to get the local news involved — they’re often on the lookout for a juicy investigative report.
Finally, if you run a website, don’t be afraid to share your experiences. To the extent possible, try to optimize your post for search engines such that other potential customers will run across it and see what you have to think. For an example of this, go ahead google the following: dish network customer service (that’s a live link for the search) and check out the results. See what comes up? Right after the official Dish Network website is a link to an article I wrote about Dish Network and their bad customer service.
The bottom line here is that you don’t have to settle for lame customer service via the ‘normal’ channels. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So make as much noise as you can and whatever you do, don’t back down. You’re right and you know it, so don’t let the wear you down.
Got any great tips of your own? I’d love to hear them — please leave a comment.