When Asking Nicely Fails

When a company refuses to unscrew you, usually as a matter of “policy,” it sometimes takes a little extra to get them to see why they’re wrong.

If saying please and escalating up the customer service lines fail, a few tactics can help bend their steely resolve in your favor.

A relevant appendix to these posts is our growing library of company contact info is listed under the “phone numbers” tag.

(Photo: Getty)


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  1. FREAKHEAD says:

    I also found that screaming in their lobby, “What do you want me to do, pee in a cup?” is quite effective.

    When I moved into my first apartment at 19, the previous tenets didn’t pay their phone bill. 6 trips down to their office later and they are suggesting that I am the same tenet and I doctored my lease (which they requested) to get out of paying my bill.

    After being extremely patient for 5 previous trips, parking, dropping coins in the meter and walking to their office just to jump through all their hoops, I kinda lost it when they suggested I was lying.

    My phone was working by the time I pulled into the driveway.

    Anyway, as always very good stuff. Use your power as a consumer and take it to the web when needed.

  2. Buran says:

    @FREAKHEAD: Wow, definitely a good example of public shaming. I would have used someone else at that point though because they obviously can’t read the very proof they demand of identity.

  3. kc2idf says:

    A former co-worker had issues getting telephone service turned on because the previous tenant had not shut it off before moving out. My suggestion to him was to call home; that would fix it. Home, by the way, was Jordan :-)

    I might add that this tactic worked.

  4. LikwidFlux says:

    At once point I was dealing with US Bank for getting the payout amounts on my lease. They refused to fax me the “without tax” amounts because it confuses consumers. I escalated 3 times until I got an official supervisor instead of just an “escalation expert”.

    She, of course, refused my request at which point I plainly said. “Jane, you are a manager correct? And you are given some level of discretion as to how procedures are to be interprated. What I’m asking you is to review the procedure and note that this does not apply. I am explaining to you now WHY I need the amount without tax and that I completely understand why it is this way.” She asked me to hold then came back and said she would fax both amounts to me and that she has made a note for future floor reps.

    Let’s hope it makes a difference.

  5. StinkyCat says:

    Here is my tried and true method.

    1. Call customer service. Hang up and call again when you don’t get an answer that you like. Sometimes a new rep will do what the other rep pretended they weren’t able to do. As a general rule the customer service reps can usually do all the stuff they claim the system will not allow them to do.

    2. Ask for a supervisor. Always be sure to say “I’m not trying to take this out on you, I know you are just doing your job but…….”

    3. Look up the corporate HQ switchboard number on a resource like Hoovers– note this is not the 800 number that they publish on their website etc as HQ or customer service. Ask for the CEO’s office, not the CEO him/herself. You will either get the CEO’s exec assistant or an executive switchboard when you ask for the CEO’s assistant.– Note a CEO;’s assistant has tons of power to help you— his/her job is to make sure the boss isn’t bothered with petty shit.

    Now this is the KEY to it all.

    a. be super nice and professional no matter how pissed you are

    b. speak to the assistant as if you were representing yourself in a third party business transaction not as if you are the one who was actually slighted.

    c. It is very important to reference what your experience was with customer service and supervisors and then they key phrase is…….”It does not seem like an isolated incident with your company it is more of a pattern that could be a training issue”

    d. THE CLUTCH PLAY: As you discuss how you were treated add this little gem– adjust the script to meet the scenario and your background…”I’m less concerned with getting any kind of refund for myself and am more concerned that other customers are being treated like this or will be treated like this in the future. I myself own/run/manage a business and I would want to know ASAP if my customers were treated in this manner.”

    This method works at least 80% of the time.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    @StinkyCat: B is so very true. It’s like customer service jedi mind trick.

  7. TeraGram says:

    Stinkycat makes some good points.

    I would add…

    … anytime you deal with a company over the phone, take notes.

    When you call back at some future date because what you were promised doesn’t materialize, be sure to reference those notes.

    “Oh April 5th, I contacted your help-line and spoke to Ms. CSR-A and she told me….”

    Do not try to BS your way through this because the larger companies do keep notes about your calls. However, if you were able to remind them Ms. CSR-A said such and such on that particular date, it generally goes better and I have also found that wheel-greasing is more likely to occur.

  8. rdm says:

    I have had decent luck going thru the BBB if it’s a company that actually cares about their standing there. The jerk refused to pay us back for our damaged goods (after moving us and promising to fix it) ($0.60 on the pound, btw) until we went to the BBB.

  9. Naomi says:

    I resolve escalated issues on behalf of the CEO of the company I work for. The people that get the resolution that they want are the ones that are honest, thorough, understanding, and polite. Yelling and screaming doesn’t get anywhere. Neither does exaggerating the problem. In fact, people those things are usually easier to dismiss. Stinkycat’s point c and d are KEY. I can’t speak for others with my role, but a key job responsibility is identifying root causes and revising faulty processes.