Customer Service—How to Get what You Deserve

Nothing defines a company in the collective psyche of its customers more than the quality of its service. Most noteworthy businesses have splendid customer service. Others do not, which brings me to the purpose of this article; improving the outcome of interactions with customer service representatives.

 5 Major Industries with Poor Customer Service

As a consumer, the possibility exists for wretched customer service with any company supplying a product or service. However, customer satisfaction reports, as revealed by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, suggest the following five sectors as the most troubled and the most prone to failure in terms of providing a positive customer service experience.

  • Autos – including new and used vehicles, repair shops and towing companies
  • Home Improvement – in all its guises; roofers, plumbers, electricians, remodelers, deck improvements and basement water-proofing
  • Financial Services – of all stripes, especially credit card companies and debt collectors
  • Retail – particularly false advertising, bait and switch, rebate issues and gift cards
  • Utilities – with cable providers, telecommunications companies and internet providers topping the list

4 Ways to Improve Customer Service Outcomes

The following strategies provide the best opportunities for resolving disputes:

1.)    Control your anger. It is all too easy to succumb to the temptation of venting your anger and frustration on the customer service reps. After all they are the face of the company—the firm’s front line of defense. However, studies show that this is counterproductive. Try to remember that these folks are not the cause of the problem but rather the solution to the problem. Ostensibly, that is why they are there. It is important to treat the customer service representative with a certain amount of respect (using sir or ma’am won’t hurt) and refrain from personalizing your grievance by saying things like, “you sold me a lemon!” The customer service rep didn’t sell you anything! Remember that!  Instead, kill them with kindness. Use please and thank you as often as appropriate. An overbearing attitude and harsh dialogue will not achieve the desired result. Never hesitate to ask for the representative’s supervisor if things are not going well.

2.)    Take notes on the conversation. If the representative doesn’t offer a name or ID, ask for it. Also make sure to jot down the time of day and the date of your conversation. Most companies record these calls and this information will be important if circumstances escalate down the road. Customer service reps will be more helpful if they know you are taking notes and can identify them at a later date. Think of it as the “dash cam” on the police officer’s black & white.

3.)    Most large companies offer several channels for customer service contact. Use all of them! Email, social media and telephone. In many cases, it is worthwhile to contact competitors and gain leverage by telling the competitor how the company you currently deal with has failed you. Companies spend millions on advertising to establishing its brand. The more you do to diminish the reputation of the company, the more likely it is that your problem will go to the front of the queue for resolution. Just make certain that you keep criticisms factual.

4.)    Keep complaints as short and to-the-point as possible. This is true for conversations and for written complaints. Sadly, the big bucks aren’t spent on customer service rep salaries. This is an entry level position in most firms, and you are not likely to be dealing with the company’s best and brightest. Information overload can cloud the issue and confuse the customer service rep. Provide all the detail necessary but focus on your problems and issues. Leave the superfluous stuff for colleagues and friends.

If you buy a product or service from an American company and think you will receive service from a fellow American … think again. Many companies outsource this function to call centers in India or the Philippines. As a result, in addition to the issues you are experiencing with a company’s product or service, you may also encounter problems with language and culture. This can be extremely frustrating for older Americans and for those that are hearing impaired. If you bought made-in-the-USA as a patriotic gesture to keep an American employed and then learn that your CSR is speaking to you from Mumbai, your blood pressure may spike. Please re-read point number one.

What about You?

What experiences have you had with customer service? Can you add a few pointers to this list?



  • Jinny /

    Great post. I feel companies respond quicker when faced with a complaint or issue posted on a public forum, for instance social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

  • Alexis /

    Phone companies have by far the worse customer service in my opinion. This also goes to internet companies as well.

  • H. D. Carver /

    So true Alexis! Those long-term contracts really put consumers at a disadvantage. That’s why I pay as I go … if the service is lousy, I go!

  • H. D. Carver /

    I agree. Good news isn’t usually repeated, but bad news spreads like wildfire. Social media sites can sink a company faster than the torpedo that struck the Lusitania.

  • When I was looking into getting a new phone and plan recently, I absolutely did the “what’s your name” and wrote down their name and the time and date in my spreadsheet, in case they decided to change their minds on the pricing that they quoted me.
    Too bad all of the prices sucked!

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