How to effectively complain to get what you want

Had a negative customer service experience? Don't let companies get the best of you.

Whether your cable bill suddenly skyrocketed or your dishwasher just went kaput, there will certainly come a time when you will have to call a customer service number to complain.  

And when you do, be prepared, be persistent, and be polite. Lisa Gerstner, Associate Editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and author of How To Complain, says that coming to the table with these things in mind will take you much further than being an unprepared jerk. 

"You have to remember it is another human being at the other end of the line and you're asking them for help," Gerstner says. "And if you're asking them for help and you want them to do something for you, you have to be civil." 

While this advice may seem like common sense, it can be hard to keep a cool head after spending what seems like an eternity navigating the corporate phone tree.  

Once you’ve gotten to a human being and have collected yourself, it’s time to round up any receipts, warranties, contracts and serial numbers you can find. 

Gerstner says that being prepared and having a clear outcome in mind will also make the exchange less painful. “Do you want a full refund or do you want a $10 discount on your monthly bill? Go into it knowing what you want,” she says. 

If you've spent hours on the phone with a customer service representative, you are still not satisfied with what the company is offering, Gerstner says that it may be time to escalate the call. Asking to speak to a supervisor can put you in touch with a person who is in a better position to give you what you want. 

And if all else fails, Gerstner says you can always turn to social media. Posting a complaint to Twitter allows your gripe to be seen by thousands of people who may have similar grievances. “If a company has a strong social media presence, it may quickly take notice and bend over backward to help you—if only to prevent further public airings of your issue,” Gerstner says.

About the author

Candace Manriquez is a freelance producer for Marketplace.

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