If the Bill of Rights was written today, it would likely include the right to complain.
Americans love to complain, but who can blame us? For the most part, customer service has been heading downhill as companies try to cut costs by outsourcing, off shoring and hiring inexperienced staff. Take the airline industry, a favorite punching bag, as an example. In the first quarter of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration received 2,650 complaints about airlines and other travel-related services. That's up by one-third from a year ago, and doesn't include complaints from frustrated passengers who never bothered to file a formal grievance.
Many times we don't complain effectively and that in turn causes more consumer frustration and more complaining, often accompanied by yelling, screaming and cursing.
But don't worry, we're here to help. We spoke with customer service consultants-the people who are trying to help companies serve you better- to find out the secret weapons in the complaint arsenal.
Rule No.1: Know Exactly What You're Complaining About And What Action You Want
Say you bought a reciprocating saw from Home Depot and it stops working three months later. Before taking it back to the store, figure out what you want. Do you want an even exchange, a refund or a different brand of saw?
Keith Bailey, co-founder of Sausalito, Calif. -based Sterling Consulting Group and co-author of Customer Service For Dummies, suggests that, after you make your request, you should shut up and listen to what the sales person has to say. If you stay quiet, he will eventually come up with an agreeable solution.
"Don't dramatize your emotion. If they're wearing a name tag, call them by name, be polite, get them on your side and create a rapport, " he says.
Rule No.2: Never Demand To Talk To The Manager
Sure, sometimes to get your problem solved you'll need to speak to the person in charge. But no matter what industry you're in, you really don't want people asking to speak to your boss. And for some reason you do ask to speak with him, the boss will mysteriously be out to lunch-even at 9 A. M.
T. Scott Gross, speaker and author of several customer service books, says that as soon as you go over a salesperson's head, you've created an adversary. “The best way to say it is, ‘Who can we talk to who has the authority to solve this problem?’ You're asking them to help you, to be on your team, " he says. “It's important for customers to realize it's a power relationship. Servers have the power-maybe not the authority-to give you a good service experience or a miserable one. "
Rule No. 3: Sneaky Ways To Contact A Company
Customer service representatives are much more expensive than Web sites. That's why companies intentionally make their phone numbers difficult to find. You could get lost in the jungle of information on Amazon.com's Web site while looking for its phone number. A better idea is to look up its profile on Yahoo! Finance and, sure enough, along with an address is listed a phone number.
Gross suggests finding the company's latest press release on the pressroom of its Web site, calling the contact person and asking them who to speak with. (Sorry PR folks, but it's called public relations for a reason. )
Bailey also has a few tricks up his sleeve. If you call a company's main number and get a recorded greeting, you can sometimes bypass it by dialing another extension. If the last four digits of the company's main number are 2700, try 2701 or 2705. More than likely, you'll get a live body to speak to, and they can transfer you to the department you need.
Another sly tactic companies are using on their telephone systems is not offering the option of talking to an operator until the very last moment-those final seconds when most people have already given up. Bailey explains that the caller thinks the recording is about to hang up on them, then there's a short pause and, finally, the recording suggests dialing zero for an operator. Think you can outsmart the company's computerized phone system by just dialing zero at any time? Guess again. Bailey says that many times the system is programmed not to recognize the zero key until the very end of the message.
Rule No. 4: Invoke Your Rights Under Rule 240
Rule 240, which is part of an airline's contract of carriage, spells out passengers’ rights due to delays, cancellations and missed connections that are not caused by weather. Unfortunately, each U. S. airline has a different policy. But knowing what that policy is before you go to the airport could be the difference between getting on the next flight and spending a few hours watching CNN in an airport lounge. Don't expect the airline employees to tell you about their policy, either. However, don't forget about Rule No. 1 and the fact that the airline employees are dealing with not only you, but with dozens of angry customers. If you go up to the counter waving a copy of the rule in their faces and demanding they follow it, you probably won't get very far.
Rule No. 5: Address Letters To Individuals
Bailey says consumers should only send letters when they have a specific name and address. Also, mark it private and confidential. Sure, it may still be opened by an assistant, but it has a better chance of reaching the intended person. If you don't get results the first time, send another letter.
Rule No. 6: Keep Your Expectations In Check
This is a simple one: Don't expect to have a Nordstrom's shopping experience at Wal-Mart. You should still expect good service no matter where you shop, but you won't get the white-glove treatment with rollback prices, so don't complain about it. Goods are cheap at discount stores for a reason.
Rule No. 7: Patronize Locally Owned Stores
As Gross points out, if you shop at a local establishment, the owner is usually there and eager to resolve any problems. Sure, local outposts usually cost more than superstores, but when was the last time Billgates or Ivan Seidenberg helped you with your complaint?
Rule No. 8: Don't Just Complain. Praise, Too
If you're going to complain, you also have to readily acknowledge superior service. Bailey suggests not only thanking a customer service representative for a great job, but also writing the CEO or employee's manager. “When someone says ‘You did a great job', it lights these people up, " he says.
For more on this topic visit http://www.careerpath.cc
Manik Thapar (MBA)