Sometimes when something goes wrong for a consumer, their channel of complaint goes something like this:
First, yell and scream at the customer service representative who gave you the bad news. Next, vent to your spouse until it becomes obvious he or she is no longer listening. Finally, warn all of your friends on Facebook and Twitter NEVER TO DO BUSINESS WITH THAT COMPANY EVER AGAIN in all caps with several exclamation points.
Sure, that might feel good. But if you really want your problem resolved, you’ve got to learn how to complain effectively. Here’s how, according to John Tschohl, a customer service guru and author of “The Customer is Boss.”
• Airlines. Start with the airline itself, but if you can’t get anywhere, step it up a notch. Write to the Bureau of Customer Protection, Federal Aviation Administration, Washington DC, 20428.
They can tell you whether the airline has violated any FAA rules, and bring down the hammer if it has. They will also inform you of your rights.
You can also call Aviation Consumer Protection, (202) 366-2220 to report unresolved concerns about lost baggage, ticketing and being denied boarding.
• Banks. You likely won’t get very far with a teller. As much as they might want to help you, they often don’t have the authority to get the job done.
Instead, go straight to the bank officers and, if necessary, the bank president.
“Many times, officers are insulated from all customers but the largest depositors and borrowers, so a confrontation with a run-of-the-mill customer is likely to catch the officer’s attention and render him or her very cooperative,” Tschohl said.
• Government. This kind of complaint can be the most frustrating. Half of the time, one department passes the buck to another, and no one ever seems to be held accountable.
Fortunately, government officials face re-election and don’t like upsetting constituents. If you’re having trouble getting your problems resolved, contact your council members. They are your closest layer of local government and (hopefully) the most receptive.
Write a letter detailing your complaint and ask for help resolving your problem. They can direct you through the proper channels or even intercede on your behalf. If that doesn’t work, Tschohl suggests taking to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. The last thing an elected official wants is bad publicity.
• Restaurants. Try to resolve your complaint with the restaurant staff while you’re still in the restaurant. Restaurant owners and managers would much rather have the opportunity to address your concerns than have a negative review pop up online later.
“The majority of restaurant owners realize that a sterling reputation takes years to build, but that it can be tarnished in a flash when people start complaining to neighbors friends, relatives, and co-workers,” Tschohl said.
If that gets you nowhere, write an honest, fair online review on Google, UrbanSpoon and Yelp describing your experience. At least it will prevent others from having the same problem.