19 September 2012
The Customer’s Always Right: How to Solve Customer Service Problems

Savvy business owners recognize the value of satisfied customers, and most want to keep you happy with your in-store or online purchases. It’s just good business. However, in this age of online buying and big box stores, consumers are often frustrated at the lack of customer care after they make a purchase.

So, what can you do when your new washing machine starts making noises, or your new car, still under factory warranty, refuses to start on cold mornings?

Here are some ways to take action.

  • Stay calm. Be polite. Be persistent. You really can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. The poor customer service representative on the line may not be empowered to resolve your complaint, but screaming and threats won’t get the results you’re after.  Even if this is the fifth call, and you’ve hung on the line for 15 minutes to talk to a real human, be polite and explain the problem.  Try to reach the same customer service rep each time you call, which may eliminate the need to restate the problem.  After several calls, you may actually become phone friends with the service rep who’s hopefully working hard to resolve the problem.
  • Work your way up the ladder. If you don’t have success talking with a customer service representative at first, work your way up the ladder. Speak to a customer service manager. Most client care reps are limited in the actions they can take, but as you move up the ladder to a manager, supervisor and even to the business owner, you’re more likely to get the problem resolved.
  • Stay positive. Businesses want you to be happy, but angry phone calls and threats won’t deliver the positive outcome you want.  Avoid confrontations at all costs to keep the lines of communication open between the business and you.  Assume that the business owner or client care manager wants to help you.
  • Keep records. Make a list of when you called. Ask the customer service rep for his or her name and try to connect with the same rep each time you call or visit the store.
  • Dispute a credit card charge. Using a credit card for the purchase may also provide the cardholder with additional dispute rights as made available through the card associations, i.e. MasterCard/Visa.  If you are unable to resolve your issue with the merchant directly, you can write a letter or call your credit card issuer explaining the problem and your attempts to fix it.  The card issuer will work on the cardholder’s behalf to resolve the dispute as allowed through the applicable association rules to come to a resolution or in some cases transfer financial liability back to the merchant.
  • Contact the local branch of the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. These agencies are on your side. They’ll contact businesses in your community to try to resolve disputes. They also report complaints to prospects who access the BBB’s complaint files.  For certain products – those regulated by government agencies – contact the Federal Trade Commission in writing. The FTC will contact the company and, if enough customers complain, the FTC is empowered to levy fines. Take this step as a last resort after all of your attempts at resolving a customer care issue have failed.


There are also ways to protect yourself when purchasing goods and services, to avoid troublesome customer issues:

  • Buy Locally. Small businesses in your community rely on local shoppers to generate a profit and to spread the word about their stores, so you may find they pay more attention to customer care.  In addition, it may be much easier to talk directly to the owner – the one person who can fix the problem you’ve encountered and give you the resolution you’re after.
  • Read the warranty before making a purchase. Smart consumers know that products often come with some kind of manufacturer’s guarantee. A clothes dryer may have a one-year factory warranty, but there may be specific conditions that invalidate a warranty.  Understand what coverage you get with your purchase, from a laptop to a new car. Business owners are usually happy to fix customer care issues on items that are still covered under a warranty.
  • Keep all of your paperwork when you make a purchase. Keep your receipt, warranty, instruction manual, shipping manifest and all of the other paperwork that comes with even a small purchase. In order to resolve a customer’s problem, business owners may want to review this documentation with you to resolve the problem quickly.
  • Purchase an extended warranty. Many businesses, large and small, offer an extended warranty and special customer care when you make a purchase. It may cost a few extra dollars at the time of purchase, but think of that warranty extension as an insurance policy that may protect you when you make a large purchase.


The information contained herein is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.


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