Get Satisfaction: 16 Ways to Beat Bad Customer Service

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There are many reasons why consumers experience bad customer service. Overworked call handlers, poor training, miscommunication, and other factors can lead complaints to be overlooked, mishandled, or outright ignored. These tips can help reduce stress and handle a complaint without surrendering too much time or money.

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send an email

With social media and electronic communication, phone calls are becoming obsolete and a less effective way to resolve issues. Send an email instead. With emails, consumers can thoroughly craft and even edit complaints before submitting them. No more waiting on the phone or being routed to the wrong department.


use social media

Want an even faster response? Turn to social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are revolutionizing corporate customer service. A Forbes contributor emphasizes how important it is for businesses to respond immediately to customer complaints on social media. Many companies have several social media profiles where consumers can instantly connect with customer service representatives whose primary responsibility is to manage social media communication.

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mention 'one-time courtesy'

Most customer service departments have a one-time-courtesy rule, allowing an exception to company policy. Most companies keep track of all customer interactions, so they know when a customer has already used a one-time courtesy. Requesting the favor often works when asking a company to pay for return shipping, honor an expired coupon, or waive a late fee.

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insist on speaking with upper management

Customer service representatives are trained to deflect complaints away from upper management. Usually after the second or third request to speak with a supervisor or manager, a representative will give in to the request. When a complaint does make it past lower-level agents, the chance of getting a problem resolved increases.

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Many companies have adopted the "customer is always right" adage, but sometimes the customer is wrong. To fare well with a customer service representative, apologize for any mistakes or misunderstandings on your part that led to the issue.

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bypass the menu tree

According to a Consumer Reports survey, consumers' biggest irritant when calling customer service is not being able to get a live person on the phone. Services such as GetHuman offer reliable phone numbers and other contact info, along with exactly which numbers to push to bypass automated menus and speak to a live person.

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call the right number

In Consumer Reports' survey, 70 percent of respondents said they are "highly annoyed" when transferred to the wrong department. Consumers who dial the wrong customer service number (sales instead of tech support, for instance) can end up being re-routed through several departments before finally landing at the right one. It may be more efficient to take an extra minute and search for the right number on GetHuman or Dial a Human, or the company's website.

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call at the right time

Nobody wants to hash out a conflict first thing in the morning, but according to a report by the customer service software company Zendesk, the best time to call is mid-morning, when support tickets submitted outside business hours have been resolved and new ones have not yet begun to pile up. Toward the afternoon and evening, call volumes increase and so do wait times.

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follow up

Don't be afraid to follow up on an inquiry or complaint if the expected turnaround time has lapsed. In the customer service world, "follow-ups" are taken seriously and usually bumped to the front of the queue. The company might even throw in a gift for the inconvenience.

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ask for other options

When denied a refund, don't stop there. Ask what else the company can offer. To retain customers, many companies are willing to grant store credit or an even exchange.


send a letter

A handwritten letter conveys a level of seriousness and sincerity that can make an impression and lead to a favorable decision. Use the company's About page or LinkedIn to find the head of the customer service department.

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leave a public review

Negative reviews can be a business' worst enemy, possibly scaring off potential customers. Often, when customers leave less-than-favorable reviews, business owners feel pressured to resolve the issue to repair their image and attract future customers. Leaving a public review on a company's Google or Yelp listing, or a page where the product at issue is sold online, can help get a complaint heard and properly resolved.


contact the attorney general

The state attorney general's office is another avenue for filing a complaint or reporting a scam. The attorney general helps consumers resolve complaints and provides general mediation between customers and businesses. The process can be lengthy, but involving the attorney general will encourage the business to act justly to avoid a possible government investigation.


contact the better business bureau

Filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau is yet another way for customers who couldn't resolve complaints on their own to fight back. The BBB lists reviews and complaints, and sometimes intervenes on customers' behalf and encourages businesses to resolve issues. Complaints and interactions are posted publicly on the BBB website, which provides an incentive for companies to resolve disputes.


manage a rude representative

Managing unruly customers is an essential part of customer service training. The same tips and techniques employees use to calm frustrated customers apply to frustrated employees. The key to managing a difficult rep is maintaining composure. A Forbes contributor lists remaining calm as one of the primary ways to control anger on the other end of the line. If the situation escalates, try to speak with another employee. It also doesn't hurt to report your experience, which could result in a discount or freebie.


get your story straight

Before contacting a company to make a complaint, take note of dates, times, exact figures, contact names, and any other important information. It's also smart to know the company's policies, just in case the representative is misinformed. Approaching the problem highly informed is likely to encourage the representative to do just as much research on your behalf.