7 Ways to Win Your Consumer Case

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Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. This post originally appeared on partner site Mint.

Persistence pays.

I know, because I’ve seen consumers whose requests were either so unreasonable or so petty that I dismissed them without a second thought. I told them there was no hope.

But they ignored me, pressed their cases…and won.

When you have a problem with a company, you can use persistence as a tool to bludgeon your opponent — normally an intransigent offshore call center or “help desk” – into submission.

But there’s a right way to do it.

Here are a few secrets I’ve picked up along the way.

Be polite

Good manners are your deadliest weapon. The complaint resolution process is often designed to not only frustrate you, but to make you walk away in disgust.

Always be polite and they won’t have an excuse to hang up on you or to stop responding to your emails.

And yes, this is true even when your case is totally frivolous.

Drip, drip, drip

Few consumer complaints are resolved quickly (although when they are, that’s a beautiful thing!).

Use any of the popular calendaring programs to send you a regular reminder to check in with a company. Your impeccably cordial follow-up emails will be the proverbial squeaky wheel that gets the job done.

Climb the appeals ladder

If you don’t get a speedy resolution from the main 800 number or from the “Contact Us” page, take it to the next level.

Finding the email address of a customer service manager, a VP, or even the chief executive isn’t difficult. They should hear from you too.

Slow and steady

Many disaffected customers email the CEO directly in hopes of a quick resolution.

But without a paper trail – the back-and-forth between you and the “Contact Us” page or a manager – it will just get bounced back to the “customer service” department.

Don’t take it personally

You’ll get lots of “no’s” along the way and you’ll read a lot of form letters.

You’ll even hear representatives tell you by phone, in person, and by website “chat” that they can’t help you anymore.

It’s not you; it’s them. They can help you. They just don’t want to. But they will.

Ascribe the best motives

Project positive: “I know how much you believe in customer satisfaction, so I’m sure you’ll want an opportunity to make this right.”

Expressing this can-do attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Doing it over and over and over often leaves a company with no choice but to comply.

Hunker down

A few numbers to remember:

2 to 4 – That’s the number of weeks it takes for the typical complaint to be resolved.

60 – That’s the number of days you have to dispute a credit card charge.

Be extra nice for the first two weeks, be insistent for the next two, and spend the following four weeks using these techniques as a battering ram to get what you want.

(If it looks like the company won’t play ball and is trying to run down the clock until its two months are up, use the last two weeks of the 60 days to file a dispute with your bank.)

Finding good customer service shouldn’t be a chore, but when it becomes one, it’s the right combination of patience, politeness, and persistence that will get you what you deserve.

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