5 Ways to be a Better Complainer and Get What You Want

United Breaks Guitars

United Breaks Guitars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago, I told you about an app that helps you skip the wait-time when calling customer service. However, just because you get to talk to a person faster doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get what you want. I’ve had amazing customer service, but I’ve also had really horrendous help that leaves me so frustrated. You know what I mean – it can be really hard to keep your cool when the stranger on the other end of the phone is being difficult about their company shipping you the wrong pair of pants.

A few years ago Dave Carroll was flying United Airlines when he noticed that the people loading the plane were throwing his guitar around, resulting in a broken guitar when he landed. He spent months dealing with United’s customer service, only to discover that they weren’t going to do a thing about his smashed guitar. Dave took matters into his own hands, writing the song “United Breaks Guitars” and exposing the airline’s bad behavior in a viral video that resulted in United reaching out to David and offering to replace his unusual guitar. Now, when the rest of us have to get a new guitar, we can’t quite get United Airlines to send one for us. Instead, we can compare a range of small bodied guitars on a site like thesoundjunky until we find the guitar that is right for us.
I know that we don’t all have the luxury (or the musical ability) to handle bad customer service the way Dave did, but here are a few ways anyone can complain smarter and get better customer service:
1. Use Social Media – A customer service rep may not care about your problems with a company’s service or products, but do you know who does care? Their PR people. Many companies have a Twitter account or Facebook page to promote deals and build audiences. Air your concerns (concisely!) and they are likely to get noticed by the right person.
2. Put them in your shoes – After dealing with a specifically difficult customer service person, the next likely step is to speak to a manager. It can be really compelling to demand they see your point of view, but sometimes wording is everything. Next time, try saying to the manager, “I know things happen, but what would you do if you were in my position?”
3. Start over – This might not be the most time-friendly tip, but if a conversation with a customer service rep takes a turn for the crazy, try explaining that you understand their policy, but you still need their help. Then, ask to start over. This brief moment will give them (and you) a chance to calm down and will make them more likely to help you in the end.
4. Use their name – Connecting with the rep on a personal level is more likely to make them feel accountable for your situation. I’m much more likely to respond to “Paula, I really appreciate your time and help” than I would be to “Do this for me now!”
5. Call early in the day – I’m way more likely to give a helpful and thoughtful response when someone asks for my help at work at 10 am than if they asked at 4 pm. Even though customer service departments are often open 24/7, the daytime representatives still work 9 am to 5 pm. Call them early in the day to avoid being the brunt of a bad call (or 5 bad calls) that came in before yours.
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