Unlocking the keys to good customer service and its unfortunate counterpart, “customer no-service” has been a big part of money expert Clark Howard’s mission for three decades.
If you’re having problems with a company due to an unsatisfactory service or product, Clark wants you to know that to get results you often have to employ an array of tactics.
“You’ve got to be flexible in how you use the tools available to you,” he says. “There is no silver bullet.”
In this article, we’ll explore some steps to getting good customer service from companies you buy from or patronize.
Why Is Customer Service So Bad?
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which gauges key business metrics, including customer service, across industries like restaurants, banks and airlines, how consumers view these sectors has been in a free fall in recent years. “Since 2019, there has been a sharp decline in customer satisfaction,” says a recent ACSI report.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic — with the subsequent worker shortages and supply chain issues — has contributed to this, but the ACSI says the decline in confidence in how customers feel about the companies they do business with has been falling for a while.
In my own experience, when it comes to getting good customer service via phone calls, not only does it seem like wait times are longer, but getting a real person is more and more of a challenge these days.
But what happens when you finally do get a real person? Clark has some valuable steps you should follow:
1. Remain Calm and Be Specific
Clark says it’s very important for you to be focused on your demands, but also to keep your composure at all times.
“Be very specific in what you want to solve the problem. Do not just complain,” he says. “And be careful what you ask for.”
”If in your anger and frustration you ask for way too much, you’re going to end up with little or nothing.”
2. Post on Social Media
Instead of being on hold for minutes or even hours before you reach a customer service representative via the phone, many people find success reaching out to companies on their social media channels.
In fact, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been a valuable arrow in our quiver of ways to reach companies, especially airlines. Clark says this is because companies began monitoring their social media feeds closely for customer dissatisfaction.
“There was a time, maybe five or six years ago, when companies woke up to the problem of reputational harm through social media,” Clark says. But things are changing.
While social media used to be a viable way for customers to get quick answers to pressing concerns, many companies are no longer responding to such inquiries as they used to.
The reason this customer service strategy has lost much of its effectiveness is “because so many people started using that to try to get a company to pay attention,” he adds.
3. File a Complaint With the BBB
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is another way to grab a company’s attention.
One of the BBB’s most popular features is its proprietary rating and accreditation system, which can affect the success of a company in one way or the other. Because of this, many firms will work with the BBB to resolve customer complaints and issues.
4. Try Elliott Advocacy
Elliott Advocacy is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that provides several resources for people to resolve their issues with companies and corporations.
One of our favorite features of Elliott Advocacy is that it publishes the names of customer service managers, which can be helpful when you want to establish a trail of communication.
Clark says reaching out to an executive can often yield faster results than trying to contact and hear back from the head of the company.
“One thing that I find that is still effective is not writing the CEO of the company, not complaining to the CEO of a company, but finding out at the operational level, who are these unknown vice presidents or assistant vice presidents, whatever their title is in the organization, that are over whatever it is you’re having a problem with,” Clark says.
Want help with that? Start with Elliott.org’s massive database of executive contact information.
5. Call the Consumer Action Center
Started by Clark in 1993, the Consumer Action Center is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that helps people with their problems for free in real time.
If you need advice with money or consumer issues, call the Consumer Action Center at 636-49C-LARK (636-492-5275).
6. Use a Paid Service
If you’ve got the coin, you might even consider investing in a paid service like Karens for Hire. The service specializes in several areas, including real estate, cars and customer service.
Fees vary based on the situation, but typically average $50 to $75, according to the Karens for Hire website.
If you’re having issues with something you bought from a company and can’t get your issue resolved easily, Clark wants you to reach out in a variety of ways.
Clark says just as important as the many ways you choose to reach out to a business is how you reach out.
“There are multiple things you try. You don’t focus on one particular thing, but the overriding thing,” Clark says, “is polite persistence.”
“Never, never, never not ever, no matter how fed up you are, ever unload on somebody you’re talking to on a phone call at customer no-service, someone you’re messaging at a company, or by posting on social media.”
“Rage does not work,” he adds. “You put everybody in a defensive position and everybody dealing with you – very quickly, even if your problem is a legitimate one that the company has caused – they’ll decide you’re the problem, not the problem you’re having.”