How to resolve your consumer issues

February 21 2015 by Ellen Roseman

Here is a guest post from Annie Gelfand, a life coach who has has success in resolving her own consumer issues. I’m posting a summary here and her expanded tips in the comments below.

In today’s automated and web connected world, it is getting more challenging for consumers to resolve product and service-related issues.

Call centres are now the “go to” customer service solution. However, dealing with a call centre is time consuming and can leave you frustrated and ready to tear your head off. What is a consumer to do?

I have had some success in resolving my own problems. So, let me share my step-by-step consumer satisfaction process:

STEP ONE: ESCALATE. Move your complaint up to a supervisor or team leader.

STEP TWO: KNOW THE COMPETITION. Research other options.

STEP THREE: FIND OUT WHO THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS ARE. You have to be diligent to find the phone numbers and who’s who at corporate headquarters.

STEP FOUR: USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO SHAME THEM. If all else fails, find the company’s Twitter and Facebook pages and POLITELY post your comments.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Be polite at all times.

Know what you want.

Write everything down.

Get commitments in writing.

Make the company commit to a date.

2 comments

  1. Annie Gelfand

    Feb 21 2015

    Here is how I get complaints resolved and how you can follow my lead.

    STEP ONE: ESCALATE

    If a representative at the call centre can’t resolve an issue, ask for a supervisor or team leader. Usually, they have been instructed to avoid this, so be prepared to fight..

    Get the rep’s name and ID number or reference number of the call, make note of the date and time of your call, dig in your heels and stay on the phone until they pass you to their supervisor.

    A supervisor is usually co-operative and well informed. But if the supervisor can’t provide a solution, escalate to the cancellation department, which often has the leeway and flexibility to offer what you want.

    STEP TWO: KNOW THE COMPETITION

    If step one does not work, thoroughly research all similar options. This gives you a strategic competitive advantage, which adds leverage to your case.

    Here’s an example. Bell Canada recently doubled my monthly phone bill, from $55 to over $120, without notifying me. When I spoke to a customer service agent, I was told I had been receiving a discount for a long distance package that I shouldn’t have received. It was offered only to customers who had three or more services with Bell (internet, phone and mobile).

    He offered to give back the discount if I would add two services. But I hesitated to add more after being dissatisfied with only one service. The agent refused to do anything further.

    Bell has a competitive advantage. It’s the only home phone provider whose lines keep operating in a power failure without switching to battery back-up. Since many customers use VOIP (voice over internet protocol) for their home phone service, there are many Bell rivals with lower charges. I called a few to get quotes.

    Cogeco Cable, our internet and cable provider, offered a promotional package for the same add-ons I had with Bell for less money. I agreed and Cogeco scheduled a date to disconnect Bell. (After you set up a disconnection date, your call is directed to Bell’s cancellation services department.)

    When I said I’d been a customer for 30 years, a Bell supervisor offered to refund my overcharges and give me a $5 credit every month to retain my business. But I had to give up my long distance package, since Bell refused to budge on its three-service discount policy.

    If I used Bell for long distance, I’d be charged $0.40 per minute. This was ludicrous, so I bought a long distance package through Skype for $30 a year, giving me access to unlimited calls anywhere in North America.

    STEP THREE: FIND OUT WHO THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS ARE

    Still no satisfactory resolution? Hang up the phone and use Google to find the name and contact info of the CEO or VP Marketing (who is usually responsible for the call centre). This involves persistent online research.

    I used to pretend to be a private investigator as a child, so I make it a game and dig until I find the info. If companies publish only a call centre number, you have to be diligent to find the corporate phone numbers.

    If the company is publicly traded, these contacts will be easier to locate. Names of the board of directors, as well as the key executives, will be published in their annual reports and on their corporate website in the Investor section.

    When you call the corporate office, you can speak to an executive assistant who often tries to resolve issues quickly. If I don’t get anywhere, I call the “big gun,” the CEO.

    However, I almost always get a resolution before speaking to the executives. I quote a company’s mission statement and values (found at its website), if they don’t match its actions. I ask for policies to be amended. I am a dog with a bone when it comes to advocating for consumer rights.

    Here’s an example. My mother died in 2008 (the year the stock market crashed). She held many investments through TD Waterhouse. As we were settling her estate, TD sold her investments prematurely without permission at a huge loss.

    I found my way to TD’s corporate headquarters and spoke to the CEO’s executive assistant. Not only did the bank reinvest the funds to buy back the stocks, but it covered all the fees to do so. And it apologized.

    STEP FOUR: USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO SHAME THEM

    If all else fails, find the company’s Twitter and Facebook pages and post your comments for everyone to see. It is amazing how quickly most companies respond. It’s like having a magic wand at your disposal. But use this magic with discretion. The following etiquette will help prevent a company from deleting your tweet or Facebook posting.

    RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

    Keep your interaction polite at all times. The employees you speak to aren’t out to get you. They aren’t monsters. Assume they want to resolve your complaint and will do whatever they can to help.

    Know what you want. You will be asked what you want, so be specific. I also ask, “What else is possible?” and stay silent to see what they offer. The result may be more than I could have imagined.

    Write everything down. You may be asked to repeat your story several times. Keep all purchase receipts. Record dates and names of everyone you speak to. Make notes of each conversation. Get reference numbers and representatives’ ID numbers.

    Get commitments in writing. When companies promise to resolve something, make sure you have written proof.

    Make the company commit to a date. You want to know when you can expect to hear back from them.

    HELPFUL LINKS:

    (1) The Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) has a phenomenal list of behaviours to follow when filing a complaint about a company or product:

    http://www.consumerhandbook.ca/en/topics/products-and-services/complaints

    (2) Better Business Bureau of Canada: http://www.bbb.org/

    (3) The Complaint Road Map at Consumer Information has a thorough list of steps to follow:

    http://www.consumerinformation.ca/eic/site/032.nsf/eng/01166.html

    Follow these steps and you should resolve your problem. You need to be persistent and generous with your time.

    If nothing else works, write to Ellen Roseman, the SuperWoman of consumer advocacy, and other media contacts.

    ———————————————————————————————————

    Annie Gelfand is a Master Certified Coach credentialed by The International Coach Federation. She has a Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of Toronto and has more than 30 years of business experience.

    In addition to helping her clients lead more abundant and fulfilling lives, Annie is a reflexology instructor, an artist, writer and an avid cat lover. More info about Annie can be found at http://radicalwisdom.com.

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