Complain and Get Results
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|October 2021
Use these tried-and-true strategies to get companies to listen to you.
EMMA PATCH

In 2019, Terry Smith, of Jacksonville, Fla., traded in his 2019 Corvette Grand Sport for a same model-year Chevrolet Silverado pickup. But shortly after he purchased the truck, it started running rough, and certain parts needed immediate replacement. It had transmission, climate control and traction issues, says Smith. He reached out to a friend—a lawyer—who advised him to complain to General Motors before pursuing legal action (see the box on page 71 for details on lemon laws).

Smith called GM and described the truck’s problems. He told the company that he could pursue legal action but would rather not. GM agreed to take a look at the truck but found that it was operating as designed. Even so, Smith’s lawyer friend advised him to call again and be persistent. After three months of calling and complaining, GM agreed to pay him $5,000.

This past May, after prices for used cars and trucks spiked, Smith decided to sell the Silverado. He had it appraised by CarMax, which offered him $1,000 more than he had initially paid for it. “In the end, I essentially got paid to drive it for a year and a half,” says Smith.

Dealing with a defective product or bad service can be frustrating. But by using time-tested strategies for complaining effectively, you’ll have a good chance of getting satisfaction. Above all, remain calm and be polite— and be prepared to be persistent. Confronting a business can be time-consuming and often takes patience.

KEEP YOUR COOL

Before you pick up the phone or go online, take some time to prepare your case. And whenever you need to make a complaint, first take your emotions out of the conversation. Essentially, be nice, says customer service consultant Barbara Khozam. That’s because an angry customer may put a customer service rep on the defensive.

The more precisely you can describe the details of your situation, the more likely you are to get results, says Khozam. But while it is important to provide context and give the whole picture, be careful not to overwhelm the company with unnecessary information. “Make sure that when you submit a complaint, you only mention the facts,” says Michaela McDonald, a certified financial planner in New York City. If you purchased a faulty product, take pictures and attach them to an e-mail or social media post. If you’re complaining about a service, it may be worthwhile to review the service description and point out what was left out or altered in your case, says McDonald. You could even copy and paste the service description into your message to the company.

Also, if you have called a company repeatedly about inept service and been ignored, explain how many times you have called and when. If you are a loyal customer, you might also mention how long you have been patronizing the company and what you like about the business.

AIM FOR THE TOP

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