How to effectively complain over the phone

Last week, everything in my house broke. There was the house generator that needed a new starter; there was my internet connection that wouldn’t stay connected, and the spring on the garage door broke, and my car was held captive for a day. So there I was …on the phone lodging complaints.

So how does a person effectively complain over the phone? Here are my suggestions based on a week of personal experience, research and investigation.

  • It is very possible you will have to leave a voice mail. Leave your name, call back number, and allow someone approximately 24 hours to return your call. State your complaint and what you believe would be a fair and reasonable solution. Don’t tell a long story.
  • When someone does call you back, be reasonable. Customer service representatives may have some discretionary power to help, but don’t demand a trip to Italy. Sometimes you can get a gift card, discount for your next purchase, partial refund, or gift miles.
  • Initially assume good faith about the company and staff. You could use this in your conversation, “I know this isn’t your fault, and I don’t mean to take it out on you, but I hope you can feel my frustration.” The customer service representative won’t feel you are being adversarial and most likely will be more apt to please.
  • Make sure you get the agent’s name, identification number, date and time of call and follow-up in writing. You can’t always trust the agent made a notation on her computer about your problem.
  • If there is a language barrier, since many companies out source to countries like India, Latin America and Eastern Europe, advise the representative you can not understand him. Ask him to connect you to either a senior agent or ask to be connected to the supervisor.
  • Stay calm. Many customer service agents have a script. Don’t ever be rude; don’t curse,and don’t yell. Don’t threaten to sue unless you can follow through. Also, you know you’re not going to the President, and asking for the company owner is not likely to happen either.
  • Compare policies of other companies. If you are knowledgeable about other companies with similar services offering better warranties, refunds, etc. use that when speaking with the customer representative. The company may have to reach out and change its policy.

I also noticed that most companies have a message at the beginning of the customer service menu advising the caller that the calls may be monitored for quality assurance. Companies do take complaints seriously, and although no one wants to complain, it does mean there is a problem. Make sure you follow-up with a written correspondence, and if all else fails, a customer’s main revenge is to abandon the company and move on to their competition.

photo credit: loiclemeur

One Response to “How to effectively complain over the phone”

  1. Sam said:

    Mar 03, 10 at 7:45 am

    This is all good advice. I’m dealing with a cell-phone company at the moment (the full story “Sam vs Orange” is on my blog) and staying calm when talking to these guys makes a big difference. I’ve tried the friendly approach so far but it’s getting me nowhere – I’d be interested to get some tips on how to get a response if you hit a brick wall.

    Sam