Tips for complaint phone calls to big businesses

Tips for fighting back against corporations – and winning.

Tips for fighting back against corporations - and winning.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s the phone call that most people dread: The call to customer service. 

“Your call may be recorded and monitored,” says the typical automated message.  “Please remain on the line for the next available agent.”

We’ve all been there, right? You order a product or sign up for a service, but something isn’t quite right. To fix it, you have to dial a 1-800 phone number and speak with a customer service representative.

To help you avoid frustration and hopefully get you what you are due, KGW sat down with Ron Burley, author of “Unscrewed: The Consumer’s Guide to Getting What You Paid For.” 

The consumer advocate explains some simple do’s and don’ts for calling customer service.

DON’T: Get Angry

Stay calm. Keep your cool. Don’t yell, scream, shout or be sarcastic.

DO: Be Prepared

Before you even pick up the phone, prepare yourself for that call. 

“Get yourself in a quiet place, get a notepad with a pen and calm down,” said Burley. 

DO: Get the Information

The moment a customer service agent answers, ask for their full name, agent number and a call back phone number. Write it down. That way, if you get disconnected you can call them back. It also helps remind the agent that they’re no longer anonymous.

“If you are talking to Sam, write down Sam’s name and use it in the call,” explained Burley. “That develops a personal relationship.”

DO: Be Clear and Concise

Tell your story in a brief, concise manner. State your problem from time of purchase to time of failure. Who did you speak with? When were you there? How much did you spend?  

“Have all of that information ahead of time and it is going to make your presentation sound clearer, more on point and more authoritative,” said Burley.

DON’T: Make it Personal

Don’t call agents names. Don’t threaten the company. Don’t ever make personal threats to the person or the company.

DON’T: Threaten a Lawsuit

“You don’t want to ever mention suing or lawyer because customer service people have been told to immediately shut down the conversation if you ever mention those things,” said Burley.

DON’T: Get Put on Hold

“When they say, ‘Can I put you on hold?’ say, ‘No, I’d prefer to resolve this now,” explained Burley. 

If the customer service agent insists, ask how long it will be or suggest they put down the headset while they speak with a supervisor.

DON’T: Allow Agents to Call Back Later

Explain that you are happy to wait. Tell the agent you have nothing better to do right now than wait to resolve this situation.

DO: Know What You Want

You need to know what you are going to ask for. Do you want a replacement? Do you want a refund? What is going to be your acceptable solution? Having a plan helps keep the phone call on track and it gives you a target. You are not going to waffle, explained Burley.

DO: Be Reasonable

Don’t expect a hand-written note from the company president and a refund for double the purchase price. 

“You have to be ethical,” explained Burley. “You don’t like it when the company is not ethical. You need to be ethical and you need to ask for real monetary damages and really nothing more.”

Published Nov. 21, 2017

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