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, amazon.com). “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.
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, amazon.com). 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.
If the representative on the phone is attentive to your concerns, express your appreciation during the call. Say, “I appreciate how helpful you’ve been, so at the end of our phone call, can I speak to a supervisor to provide a compliment?” suggests Noah J. Goldstein, an associate professor of management and organization at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, in Los Angeles, and a coauthor of the forthcoming book The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence ($14, bn.com). Research shows that flattering someone makes him more likely to assist you. Also, it demonstrates that you’ll vouch for him as a person who goes the extra mile. “He’s going to want to act in a manner that’s consistent with the qualities you’ve cited,” says Goldstein.
Use Inclusive Language
Say you bought a toaster that broke after just two weeks. Getting a company’s representative on your side can do wonders for resolving the situation as you wish. (Think a new toaster, not a refurbished one.) Ask the rep on the phone, “What can we do to work this out?” instead of “Can you do this for me?” As Goldstein explains, “Using we when talking about a solution creates a sense of working together toward a common goal,” rather than putting you on opposing sides.
Say the Magic Word
It’s not the one you think. “Research suggests that the word because is very powerful, since we associate it with good reasons,” says Goldstein. That’s true, he adds, even when your argument isn’t that strong. So when you’re requesting a replacement hard drive for your computer, for example, say, “I understand that this part is no longer under warranty, but I think that you should replace it because it shouldn’t break when the computer is only 18 months old.” Alas, this seven-letter word won’t work in every case. Maybe you’re asking to receive a comped plane ticket because your flight was delayed for an hour. In that situation, virtually no strategy will land you a free ride.