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How To Complain And Get Results

Impersonal customer service makes it hard to get help. Here’s the script for success.

Patricia Mertz Esswein


service can be maddening. No one wants to deal with endless phone trees, outsourced representatives working from inflexible scripts, automated responses or chatbots. “Despite saying they provide more ways than ever to contact them, companies are building fortresses around themselves so that no one has to interact with you,” says Christopher Elliott, of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit consumer group.

To breach the walls and successfully resolve your complaint, says Elliott, you must use the three p’s: patience, persistence and politeness. Don’t expect an instant fix, and give the company’s complaint process time to work. Be prepared to tell your tale repeatedly, taking your complaint up the chain of command if necessary. And even if you’re frustrated and furious, make nice. Being polite will help your complaint go to the top of the pile and get you a better response every time.

Here are steps you can take to get the results you want.

Document everything.

It’s still called a paper trail, even though much of the information may be digital. For any product or service for which you pay a sizable sum, keep copies of your order confirmations, receipts, contracts, work orders, warranties, service agreements and billing statements. If you opt to get a receipt by e-mail or text, make sure you receive it and file it. Before you dispose of product packaging, remove enclosed paperwork that may include a warranty and customer-service phone number. Also remove the bar code, which you may need to obtain a replacement item, says Amy Schmitz, a law professor at the University of Missouri.

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October 2019