What is the best way to complain?

I work in a call centre. I get people complaining about our company many times a day. I am constantly amazed that people complain in the wrong way.
If you want me to refund your money, or grant you something for free, just be nice to me and I will do it. I do not if they are shouting and swearing at me. I have asked many others here and other call centres and they basically operate the same way.

On the other hand I know that our supervisers will refund money to our customers when it is completely unjustified, just to get the abusive customer of the line.

I give an example.
Mr X calls asking for refund. Notes on his account say he has been given a refund five times before and no-one should give him a refund again. The basic policy is that every customer can get a one time refund (we are talking about $20 US) if they ask. They can get another, if it is a genuine stuff-up by us. Mr X is calling about a stuff up he made and we should reimburse him. I refuse. He shouts some more and I warn him he will be disconnected if he shouts abuse again. Five seconds later the call is disconnected. Next day I look up his account. He had called back and a supervisor refunded his money.
I think to myself that Mr X knows that with any company he deals with he will get refunds if he shouts abuse enough. And it must work for him.

Another kind of customer complaint is the pointless complaint - “I do not like your operating procedures and I would like to complain about them”. Most of our operating procedures are set by the Government and could not be changed. So why verbally harangue me about them for 20 minutes. You know nothing will change by you talking to me.Why bother?

If you are going to complain, do it about something than can benefit you.

I was at the Post Office, a month or so ago.

A woman wanted a refund for her old value stamps to use to buy the new rate stamps. She got pretty huffy when she was told that the Post Office will not buy back stamps. She was offered three cent stamps to use with her old ones, but she wanted to “Speak with the Postmaster.”

The clerk said he would go get him.

I was in line at the next counter. She looked over at me, and I said, “You do understand that the Postmaster has no authority, right?”

She said “You mean he has no authority to exchange stamps from the Post Office just to be used to buy stamps back from the Post Office?”

“No,” I replied, “I mean he has no authority at all.”

The Postmaster arrived, and invited her into an office. I left, with five postal clerks studiously trying not to laugh. The other patrons were not so circumspect.

The lady got her complaint heard. Sometimes, that is what the complainer wants. So, Postmasters, and other people get paid to listen to people complain. You get to have a job because of this characteristic of our society. So, be nice, be patient, and keep on telling people that you are so sorry, but you can’t help them. I know you aren’t really sorry, but it is one of those lies that really does serve better than the truth.

If you finally find that the supervisor wants to give away the company’s money, refer that customer to the supervisor. With a smile.


Assuming you don’t want to go into too much detail, what line of work are you in.

At my store, when certain people complain we [owners and certain managers] metally think “This isn’t a customer I want around” and we basically tell them to shove it. Granted, we don’t do this to good customers, but some people just need something to complain about. For example:

  1. We sell Wasabi Peas. They have a label that says in giant orange letters “CAUTION EXTREMELY HOT” a lady wanted her money back because they where hot.

2)We recently had a man return some cheese because it was too salty. We refunded his money and he proceded to buy a wedge of provolone :dubious: ?

3)We’ve had customers come in and tell us there is something wrong with something. We refund the money, and watch them buy the exact same thing again. These customers are told they will not be allowed to return it again if there’s a problem (BTW this is on packaged items, not fresh produce).

4)One of my favorites…“I bought a watermelon and it was awful, I want my money back.” “I’m sorry about that, I’ll be happy to refund the money. Can I have the bad melon back” “Well I ate it all” “I’m sorry sir, I won’t be able to refund it then blah blah blah”

  1. As for the customers blatenly trying to rip us off. One of my cashiers watched a lady dig through a big stack of packaged sliced cheese. She brings one to the register. Register girl (on top of things apparrently) notices that the cheese is marked 19¢ and puts it on the scale at the price per pound and rings it in at what is’t supposed to be. The lady throws a freakin’ hissy fit and demands a refund for the difference. I, of course, gave it too her, but wanted to smack her, and ask her what would happen it the situation was reveresed and the cheese was accidently way overpriced. Hmm.

Okay, so this doesn’t really get back to the OP much, but I swear I thought it would when I started typing it.

I start out being nice, and try to get my complaint resolved peaceably. However, I do have a temper, and I will not stand for being blown off by someone who 1) doesn’t want to help, or 2) doesn’t have the authority to help and won’t admit it.

I work in a call centre a little bit west of you (Adelaide). I know what you’re saying, and I commiserate. Customers are the bane of my existance.

Unfortunately, most customers are not forward thinking enough to complain in the right fashion. They’re pissed, and they’re pissed NOW and need to take it out on someone. So they call whatever customer service number happens to be at hand, and start riding it out on the first person they speak to.

The other problem is precedents. Problem customers to one company are likely to be problem/entitled customers everywhere. They’ve figured out if they yell enough at the frontline staff, they get transferred to a manager. They know managers are all about retaining customers, and they have more power than the frontline staff, so they yell as hard as they can to get to them, and then threaten them with their most powerful tool - the almighty disconnection. It’s worked in the past, so they expect it to work again.

A third problem is the cost of arguing with the customer vs. giving them what they want. A call from a customer into the centre I work in costs approximately $10-15 just to speak to a 1st level rep. So if they call 3 times, that’s anywhere up to 45 already. To speak to a manager costs an extra few per time. To escalate the call to the TIO costs $27.50 in the first instance, which the TIO charges the company. A 2nd-level TIO complaint costs the company $220… and so on up the ladder, eventually topping out at about $1300. So even when the manager gives back what you perceive to be a stupid amount, it’ll often be because they’ve considered the cost of that vs. a complaint to the TIO (or your relevant governing body) and catering to the customer is the cheaper of two evils.

Of course that then just feeds back into my second point, which is that the canny customer soon learns that if they make enough fuss, they’re costing the company more and more money, and it’s more and more likely that someone will just give them what they want.

I always take care to never ever PERSONALLY abuse the CS rep, no matter how angry I am, 95% of the time it is not their fault, and being personally abusive gets you no where. If it is the CS Reps fault, I ask to speak to team leader - you cannot win an arguement against the CS Rep.

I always know what I want from the call - before I start. (I don’t call to simply rant)

If the CS Rep can’t follow my argueement, I ask to speak to team leader.

If I have a problem with procedure, I ask them to explain their procedure first - then I complain. If I am at fault, and asking for their help (on the basis I am a “good” customer) I always admit this upfront, and actually ASK rather than DEMAND help…

normally works well for me…

except the one time I did lose my temper, very genuinely, and then everyone in the office was too scared to talk to me for the next 3 days :slight_smile:

blinkingblinking, there is no GQ in your OP. Please read forum descriptions carefully before opening your next thread.

Moved to the Pit.

General Questions Moderator

And people wonder why I prefer to work in an outbound telefundraising service rather than an inbound CS.

The thing is, if we’re pleasant and polite to people (even though we’re trying to screw $ out of them) they find it damned difficult to be nasty back, and when they do, we just laugh at them…after the call is finished of course!!

I do feel your pain though blinking. I have reason to call a particular call-centre somewhat regularly (to make ‘complaints’) and I always ask the ladies what sort of a day they have had before I launch into my tirade! That gets a good larf outta them first off, and, because I am also terribly polite and accomodating, they are equally keen to see me get my problems rectified quickly too.

Hey, I’ve even sent Thank You cards to this particular call-centre. Makes their life sweeter (rather than constant complaints) and makes my life easier because NEXT time I ring, I’ll get preferential treatment again. :smiley:

I’ve had two recent encounters with tech support/customer care.
In the first, they sent the wrong software. I kept saying “you have given me the wrong software.” I was told to buy a new computer to support an $50 piece of hardware. I ask for the address to send it back and cancel the charges - and guess what? I finally get the correct software.

I’m still dealing with the second company. After several rounds of unhelpful support, I got rude and got the promise of a refund. (I’m going through the credit card company for the actual refund, as something “went arye[sic]” according to them (strangely nothing seems to go “arye” when taking my money, only when delivering my product or my refund).

I start at nice - but with many companies, I end up throwing away money if I stay there.


Every store in Spain, if you go there with a just-opened carton of milk or a yoghurt, unexpired according to the stamped date but evidently bad, what they do is give you another.

So depending on what was wrong, what you describe would be what I’m used to.

Hmm, complainers. Some of them are right. They ask politely, explain the problem, and recieve satisfaction. They are, unfortunately in the minority. Most complainers are carreer assholes.

If you complain a lot and feel that you are not an asshole, you might just be picky, you might be unlucky, you might just be an asshole who doesn’t know it.

If you have an undeserved sense of entitlement, and like to complain, Fuck you. Fuck you, in your face, with a huge donkey cock. Twice.

It is quite possible to convey dissatisfaction in a manner that does not involve whining, screaming, bitchiness, or any other form of hostility. People that make their case in a civil manner, are more likely to get what they actually want.

The type of people that demand free meals for all in their party due to a small imperfection in their food, will end up in that special level of Hell. The one where people’s eyes are boiled out hourly, and their mouths are constantly filled with flaming pig feces. Plus some anal raping, unless they’re into that sort of thing.

My pet hate is CS Reps that use euphenisms and inaccurate information - I once went through four levels at a bank when they insisted that I was REQUIRED to answer their questions on what industry I was employed in and what my job title was as part of their “know your customer programme”. I demanded to know why first.

Nobody could provide me with an accurate answer as to exactly where the requirement originated, they used all sorts of bullshit, such as they were audited (nobody could tell me by whom) and had to show such and such, that it was part of money laundering regulations (bear in mind that this is solely a mortgage account and I had all of $350 moving through it monthly), again they refused to tell me what law and what the consequences of refusal were.

What pissed me off the most, was that I didn’t ask for any changes on my account, no extra credit or services, and the account was conducted perfectly (no late payments or anything that would normally arouse suspicion).

What was impressive though was the fact that the deparmental VP himself ended up calling me :slight_smile: But even he couldn’t provide a logical answer beyond - “our internal auditors want to know” I told him to mind his own business, I don’t care if they want to know or not, unless you are formally reassessing my loan then don’t ring me up and tell me I HAVE to answer your questions - find a more creative way.

:mad: still angry about it even now…

I find it helps to be clear about what you want.

Most CS reps etc don’t really care about listening to your gripe, just about what you want.

If you are polite and make a reasonable request it’s more than likely to be granted - refund, apology, credit, replacement etc.

This is especially true with restuarants - one place I worked at automatically sent a voucher for a free cream tea for two, regardless of the justness of the complaint.

We figured the good will was worth far more than the £1.50 cost of the raw ingredients. One woman even complained about the fact it was raining when she visited - she still got the voucher :slight_smile:

Most big restuarant chains will send vouchers out from Head Office if you send a polite letter to their customer services team.

Wait, you mean there’s a such thing as a good watermelon? I do not believe such a beast exists.

You want to complain?
Look at these shoes!
I’ve only had them three weeks…

On those few incidents where some idiotic policy has moved me to fury, I always 1) restrict myself to civil, normal-voiced crabbing, and 2) preface my remarks with, “I know this isn’t your fault, but…”

Hubby and I witnessed this last week. The woman at the table across the aisle loudly complained that her steak was undercooked. The waitress apologized and cheerfully took it back to the kitchen. When the steak was brought back, the woman ate it. Her entire party complained the entire time, keeping the poor waitress hopping. She would fetch them the requested condiment, and then the next person would pipe up and ask for another. She would get that, and upon her return, be asked to get something else. (You couldn’t have said, “We need extra salad dressing, extra butter, and some ketchup, please”? No-- each thing they wanted required a seperate trip.) The “extra cheese” was too much cheese, there was too much ice in a soda, and didn’t the waitress remember they had asked for more bread? (They hadn’t.)

As soon as the waitress would walk away, they would make loud, nasty comments about her appearance, her intelligence, and her accent. The ringing volume left no room for doubt that they expected their wit to be appreciated by the resturant at large.

When the check came, the woman with the steak demanded to see the manager, and told him that this time, the steak had been overcooked.

He looked around the table, as if expecting to see the offending steak somewhere thereon. “Where is it?”

“I ate it.”

He apologized and offered to take it off her check.

That wasn’t good enough. She demanded that the meals of all in her party be comped since their meals were “ruined” as well. (But had been completely consumed, I noted.)

The manager was polite but firm. If she had complained about her steak when it was delivered the second time, he would have been able to replace it with another or give her another meal. She went on and on about how the steak was so bad she could barely eat it, with the manager eyeing her empty plate dubiously. He apologized again and said he would take the steak off the bill, but the rest of her party would have to pay.

“What will you do if we just get up and walk out of here?” she challenged.

“Well, ma’am, I would call the police,” he replied.

She raged at him for a few more minutes, ending with the dire threat that they would never eat here again. I applaud the manager for having the grace and tact not to say, “Good!” They paid their bill, but stiffed the waitress for a tip, of course. (Seeing all the shit she went through with these people, Hubby gave her a couple of bucks on their behalf.)

No customer service operation should permit its reps to give customers something they deserve (assuming a refund or freebie is deserved) based on how nice the reps feel the customer is being. If the customer has received a rotten product or service they’re entitled to redress.

If someone is foul-mouthed and/or abusive for whatever reason, you shouldn’t have to sit there and take it (unless you’ve been an ass as well). There should be a procedure to pass these folks on to a supervisor who is paid extra to listen to it or who has the power to tell the idiot to write a letter and then hang up.

Once I got into an argument with a tow truck driver who wanted to tow away my out-of-gas car (even though I had returned with the fuel to fill it). First I heard “It’s policy. I’m here, so I have to tow your car.” After reasoning with him proved useless the argument got a bit heated, then he told me he would have considered making an exception in my case except that I was mean to him. :rolleyes: Eventually, specific references to where my complaint letters would be going convinced him to unhook the tow. Moral: sometimes being nice doesn’t cut it. And arbitrary powers granted to non-supervisory personnel to be decent or unreasonable to customers based on perceptions of how “nice” they are don’t cut it either in my book.

This seems odd to me. I find that when I need to contact an anonymous voice on the phone because I have some problem or need some service, I’m quiet, polite, and try to be efficient (ie have account numbers ready, be able to state what the problem is, and so on). It’s only when some puppy-kicking servant of the Man-Goat* calls me out of the blue wanting to put a touch on me that I feel free to be a bit short, usually just to the extent of hanging up abruptly.

*Note: I have no knowledge of your personal treatment of puppies, nor if you have had dealings with Old Nick. My choice of epithet is general.

I’m not a supervisor, but I have the power to eject visitors to the museum in which I work if I feel they’re not “being nice”-- causing a disruption or are in other ways being a pain in the ass to me or other visitors. I’ve never exercized this power, but it’s nice to know I have it. I don’t have to take people being nasty to me or yelling at me.

“Unreasonable” is subjective to your point of view. If I ejected someone because they were being an asshole and disruptive, I’m sure the asshole would feel that it was “unreasonable.” (No one ever thinks they’re the ones being a jerk.)