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Video: How to get good service

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    >> the success. send money, okay?

    >>> how to get good customer service when we come back.

    >>> we're back with "today's" consumer and how to get good customer service .

    >> believe it or not, it does exist. but where?

    >> we called in the experts, janice lieberman is a consumer editor with "readers's digest." ladies, whole lots of complaining going on, isn't there?

    >> absolutely.

    >> the toughest place is over the phone.

    >> yes.

    >> when you just feel like you're invisible to people. what can we do, janice?

    >> it is so frustrating out there, especially when they say it's a five-minute wait. if you have the option of pressing spanish, press that. because they all speak english anyway and they're all more available.

    >> oh.

    >> and when you get that person on the phone, i do -- i say use your radio voice, be real smooth and charming to kind of woo the person into getting what you want. don't start complain iing about how long it took to hang on the phone and what button you had to push.

    >> don't be nasty right off?

    >> no, they'll cut you off.

    >> you're in a restaurant. they bring the food. it's not right. the service isn't good. you don't want to be a jerk but you want to get what you want and you don't want them spitting on your food when they bring it back. my duck, it's not right. what do i say?

    >> be discreet when you're telling the person about what you don't like about it. if they can't help you, talk to the manager. don't make a big deal of it.

    >> don't make a scene?

    >> exactly.

    >> you need to be reasonable. are you asking for a new entree, a refund? do you want free dessert? you need to state your case and not scream like a crazy person.

    >> most people are not going to do that, though, are they? they'll quietly complain and never come back to the restaurant.

    >> that doesn't help anybody.

    >> okay. what about hair salons? the worst thing is when somebody is doing something to you and you're going -- you want to say, that's not what i want. what do you do?

    >> say it! but say it nicely. again, the thing about etiquette is just making sure you put the other person at ease. you don't want to embarrass somebody. you just want to let them know i'm not really about this. is there something else we can do?

    >> communicate well at the beginning.

    >> do you want a free haircut, do you want a correction from a different operator? i spoke to jim in hair downstairs. he said you have three days to complain about your color, no longer. you can't wait until the gray comes back and say it wasn't a good job.

    >> oh, okay.

    >> make sure you say something before you leave the store, don't give them a tip and walk out the door, then complain.

    >> are consumers feeling entitled to be jerks, in effect, i want it and i want it now? is there a different ethos between seller and sellee?

    >> starting to feel their power, but don't abuse that power. you have to treat people with decency and respect.

    >> what about not leaving a tip if you feel like you haven't had the kind of service you want is this.

    >> you don't have to. i asked jim also about the hair. he said, no, don't tip but tell the manager why you're not tipping so they don't think you're a jerk or you're cheap.

    >> i can't do it because --

    >> exactly.

    >> in a restaurant, we have to think about the service in the restaurant. they're working for their tips. they're not making an hourly wage. you definitely want the tip to reflect the service.

    >> they also share the tip.

    >> exactly.

    >> it might be hurting the person who is doing a good job at the next table.

    >> absolutely.

    >> thank you, ladies.

    >>> still to come, ambush makeovers, after your local news.

By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 1/28/2010 5:41:38 PM ET 2010-01-28T22:41:38

When confronted with bad customer service, do you sometimes think it will end up being too much hassle to speak up about it? Or can such situations have the opposite effect on you, prompting you to go so ballistic that you can never do business with the erring company again?

Here’s the problem with those approaches: They frequently result in unpleasant consequences for you, either in the short term or in the long term. The good news is that there’s another way to proceed. The following tips can help you lodge effective complaints that yield real results.

1. Stay calm. Make a genuine effort not to get emotional. Doing so could damage your argument and your credibility. Behave as professionally as possible, and always remember this: You’re talking to a fellow human being. In many cases, the person on the receiving end of your complaint may not have had anything to do with what went wrong.

2. Don’t delay. If you want a quick resolution to your problem, don’t wait weeks and weeks to complain about it. Immediate action can get the ball rolling and help the customer service representatives in question take your situation more seriously.

3. Request special treatment if warranted. Do you do lots of business with the company in question? If so, be sure to mention that in all of your conversations and correspondence about the complaint. It really should count for something.

4. Try the easiest approach first. Call, e-mail or visit the company’s customer service department. Explain your situation clearly, and say how you would like to see it resolved. This step alone could make the problem evaporate. If the first customer service representative you reach turns out to be unhelpful, ask to speak with that person’s manager.

5. Keepgood records. If none of that works, start writing down notes about each encounter you’ve had with people at the company. Your documentation will demonstrate your efforts to resolve the problem.

6. Writeto the right person. Draft a concise letter to the president or chief executive officer of the company. You can get that person’s name by calling the company, visiting the company’s Web site or going through Hoover’s or Vault. In some cases you’ll be able to e-mail the person directly; in others you might have to mail your letter to the person’s attention at corporate headquarters.

7. Be polite. Whether you e-mail it or snail mail it, your letter should open with a sentence that captures your reader’s attention, perhaps by saying you are dismayed or shocked. But be courteous throughout the letter, thanking the person in advance for what he or she is going to do for you.

8. Be specific. Describe what occurred without any exaggeration or embellishment. Depending on the situation, consider attaching copies of your records and receipts. Let your reader know that you expect a resolution to the problem, and say what you hope that resolution will be. Don’t be unrealistic or demand too much, and set a reasonable time limit for the company to get back to you.

9. Know where else you can turn. You can file online complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. You also can file a complaint with your state government. To start the process of figuring out which agency to contact in your state, click here . In addition, you can contact the state consumer affairs department, state attorney general’s office and county district attorney’s office where the company is located. To find contact information for attorneys general around the country, click here.

10. Maintain your momentum. If your issue is serious, be aware that it could take months for it to be settled. Be persistent, and be prepared to send more than one letter.


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