You’re making a complaint. But what do you want?

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You’ve heard it a hundred times. You listen to someone ranting on and on at a customer service representative and maybe you understand what upset him—but you haven’t a clue what he wants done about it. The rep is left with nothing to offer but apologies.  And sometimes apologies just set off fresh explosions.

As you’re writing your PeopleClaim, think carefully about exactly what it would take to make things right. A repair? A replacement? Your money back? Some extra frequent flyer points? OK, ask for it. Be perfectly clear.

Could you be just a tiny bit to blame?

Also think about whether you bear any responsibility at all. For instance, that extremely expensive espresso maker broke—ouch!—but you brought it back well outside the return or warranty period. Would it be reasonable to ask for just half your money back, or to accept a replacement, or a partial trade-in on a different item? If you insist on 100 percent of your money back, and nothing else will do, you may leave the other party with nowhere to go. Acknowledge their policy, but explain why you think the circumstances warrant an exception.

Taking responsibility any part you played in the problem can help a business understand that you’re a reasonable person, rather than—not to put too fine a point on it—a total nutjob.

Put yourself in their shoes

You know your side of the story all too well. But what’s their side? What would you say if it was you on the other end of the telephone or across the counter? Playing the devil’s advocate can help you come up with a really fair suggestion for resolution.

For instance, you’re a freelance graphic designer and your invoice hasn’t been paid on time. Your rent is due, so you’re desperate.  But the business has asked you to correct a blooper before they pay your invoice, and it’ll be a week before you can get it done. How about asking for half immediately, and the rest within 24 hours of the mistake being fixed?

You want to get your problem resolved—not hand-to-hand combat unto death

Claimants tell us that one of the most irritating things they suffer is repeatedly contacting customer service and being told no, when the problem is clearly the company’s fault. So we understand—by the time you start to file your PeopleClaim, you’re chewing nails. But spit them out.

The key to a successful claim is this: write what happened calmly and politely; reference any rights you believe were violated, and spell out exactly what you want.  Be open to offers. Help the other party feel good about helping you, not ready for a stiff drink.

You can feel good about knowing that even though you shouldn’t have had to escalate the problem in the first place, the next customer probably won’t have to.

Remember this: most legal actions are resolved through negotiation before they ever get to court. If you’re smart, you can negotiate constructively without ever hiring an expensive lawyer in the first place. Or worse–giving up.


Oct 2015