With customer complaints, could it be that nice guys don't finish last?

Save Money Being Polite

by Tawra Kellam


10 Second Summary

Ten-Second Summary

  • Start by asking nicely.
  • Give the full details of the problem you are experiencing.
  • Always keep your receipt.
  • Be patient.
  • If you don't get help with the first person, then politely ask for a manager.
  • After you have nicely talked to several people without getting help, then you may need to be a little more forceful.

People often ask how I always get such good deals, like the excellent deal I got on my washer and dryer. One of the ways I am able to get better prices on things is just by being nice. Often, if I have a problem and have to talk to customer service, I will get extra items on top of my original purchase just because when I called, I was nice about my complaint (like additional formula coupons on top of free formula when I got a bad container).

Because we sell products, we also have to deal with customers who have problems with their orders. Even after 10 years, I am always amazed at how just plain rude some people are when they have customer complaints. What's funny is that most of the time with rude people, the problem is their fault for not following directions.

It is amazing how many people immediately assume you are trying to rip them off and don't even give you the benefit of the doubt to ask nicely and try to get help first before being nasty. This is a big problem with a lot of people. We get many emails like this each month. Yes, the nice ones still outweigh the nasty by a long way thankfully!

If you are a person who immediately jumps to negative conclusions when you buy something, it could be costing you money, time and your health. People who immediately respond out of anger cause themselves stress when a problem is minor and easily solved and many customer service people will not try as hard to help if someone comes at them with guns blazing.

So how do you get the best customer service from a company (i.e. problem resolved, money back, or discount on items)?

When dealing with companies, start by asking nicely. Assume that the company will help you and that the problem you are having is just a simple mistake before getting nasty.

Give the full details of the problem you are experiencing. When you contact customer service online or by phone, don't simply say, "It doesn't work." Instead, explain what happens when it doesn't work. If the customer service person can't see your computer or the item in your hand, she won't understand what you are talking about. State how does it doesn't work.

Did the page on the computer give you an error message when it didn't work? If it's something like a flashlight, did it not work when you turned on the switch? If it has more than one component, does part of it not work?

Give details of the problem and explain anything you might have tried to solve it before you contacted customer service. ("I changed the batteries," "It flashes on intermittently when I turn on the switch," etc.

Always keep your receipt. If it's easy for the support person to look up the details of your order, you'll get faster service. If you order things online, keep a special email box to put all your purchase receipts in so you know where to find them. I would even go so far as to print a copy of your receipt and keep it in a file folder in case your computer crashes.

Be patient. When receiving tech support online, it will take some time. In cases like ours, we are a family run business and do not have the time or energy to sit at the computer 24/7 to answer questions immediately as they come in. Most companies, even large companies, will give you a response in 24 to 48 hours and that is very reasonable. Many online companies have a FAQ (Frequently asked questions page) or a support page with answers to the most common problems. You can often overcome the problem quickly by looking through it. That way, if you have a problem at 2 AM on a holiday, you may still be able to get an answer even before the company is able to respond.

If you don't get help with the first person, then politely ask for a manager. Explain the situation to the manager in a nice tone first and wait for the response before getting mad.

After you have nicely talked to several people without getting help, you may need to be a little more forceful. It's fine to be upset but don't yell, scream, curse or call people names. That just makes you look like a buffoon, and most likely, you will not get any help at all once you descend to that level.

95% of time when I ask for something I get what I want because I do it nicely and politely. (Not only that, I don't get high blood pressure or stomach problems.)Face it. People make mistakes, computers don't always work perfectly, the post office doesn't always deliver packages in one piece and sometimes a product you buy might not work. Most companies are willing to correct the problem for you if you're polite. Often, companies offer you something else free, so you might even benefit from having had the problem.

When you're contacting customer service, remember that you're dealing with a person on the other end of the phone/computer. When you have the urge to get nasty, ask yourself, "If I were face to face with that clerk and my pastor at church was shopping with me, would I act this way?"

There really is something to the saying "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar." So just be nice and start saving some money!


Tawra Kellam is the editor of LivingOnADime.com. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income.

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