How to Get Your Way With Customer Service

“Your call is important to us,” they say. And yet, all too often, you hang up without getting the attention you need. That changes now.

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You pressed 1 for customer service and were treated to 20 minutes of pan flute. Finally, you reached a representative—only to be told that you needed to be transferred. And then you were cut off. Cue shrieking and gnashing of teeth. No wonder the 2013 Customer Rage Survey (yes, that’s a real thing), conducted by Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, a research firm in Alexandria, Virginia, found that 68 percent of American households that experienced a problem with a product or a service reported feeling “customer rage,” up from 60 percent in 2011. Dial down your frustration—and get satisfying results—by following these sneaky, expert-recommended tips.

Don’t Settle for Calling the 1-800 Customer-Service Number

Sure, try it once. But if you don’t get what you want, look up the number for the sales department on the company website and give them a call, suggests Ron Burley, the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer’s Guide to Getting What You Paid For, ($12, “It’s likely that your call will be answered immediately and that you’ll speak with a member of the company who is trained to make you happy,” he says. In many situations, she will be able to take care of your request herself. And if she can’t, she can directly connect you with a high-level customer-service agent (not an employee of a third-party company) who can solve your problem.

Be Cool

You want your cell phone’s texting problem rectified. Right. This. Second. But calling for help when you’re in a state of barely contained fury will probably backfire. “Agents don’t normally get polite callers,” says Christopher Elliott, a customer-service expert and the author of Scammed, ($18, Instead, agents routinely hear cursing and yelling, demands to speak to a manager, even threats to sue. When “you sound emotionally invested in your grievance to the point where you’ve lost control,” the agent may get defensive, says Elliott.

Need to file a complaint ASAP because, say, your power is down? If you’re too miffed, ask a less rattled family member or a friend to call on your behalf, advises Elliott. Ideally, take as long as you need to cool down. Pick up the phone when you feel mellow.

To remain calm, it can help to have a script. Make concise notes about what you’re asking for, and stick to those points, even if you feel like lashing out.