‘I’m a Customer Service Agent—For Best Results, Don’t Do These 3 Things When Complaining’

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If you have a problem with a product or service and need assistance to get it resolved, there's a good chance you'll interact with a customer service agent. Whether the conversation involves jumping on a phone call and braving hold music, corresponding via email or chat bot, or even talking in person, such conversations have the power to be legitimately positive and helpful or a source of frustration in their own right. The good news is that you have some control in how things ultimately go. To get the best results you can, a customer service representative says it's crucial to know what not to do when complaining.

Experts In This Article

Maria Rivera, customer service associate at customer service firm Horatio, navigates such conversations with customers as part of her job and says the way someone approaches interactions with a customer service rep factors heavily into what happens next.

"We validate the complaints and communication that customers have for us, but we just need them to come in with a mindset set up for outcomes and results."—Maria Rivera, customer service agent

“We validate the complaints and communication that customers have for us, but we just need them to come in with a mindset set up for outcomes and results to have a better experience,” Rivera says. “It’s better for you as a customer, and for me as a representative.”

Here, Rivera shares what customers shouldn’t do when they’re complaining for the best results when complaining to customer service.

3 things to avoid when complaining, according to customer service agents,

1. Using inappropriate language and being otherwise rude

The best way to get what you want is to be as polite as possible, even if hold music or delays send you into a silent rage you'd really love to voice once a person is back on the line. Remember, though, that person is a human being who doesn’t deserve to be called names or get yelled at. No matter how frustrated you are, it’s tough to salvage an interaction if it starts out in aggressive and disrespectful.

“When customers are frustrated and come in using inappropriate language that might be offensive to the representative, it’s hard to move beyond that,” Rivera says. The same truth extends to emails, which Rivera says she handles, too, in her customer service role. Even when a mode of communication skews less personal, it's not an excuse to use a rude tone.

Do this instead: If you’re not in a head space to interact politely, Rivera recommends waiting to reach out until you are. Blowing up at a customer service rep is not only rude, but will make the situation less likely to lean in your favor. The agent will be less able (and perhaps willing) to help you with your problem.

2. Not being open to finding solutions to the problem

Another factor that can compromise your outcome with customer service is not fully listening to the available options or not having an open mind about a potential solution outside what you might have already had in mind.

Rivera says it’s not always possible to achieve outcomes in exactly the way a customer expects. Remaining inflexible, she says, can make the situation harder to resolve. Because of this, it's better to come into the call with an intention to find any workable solution, rather than just to complain.

Do this instead: Drop the "my way or the highway" attitude and listen to what the customer service rep proposes. Then go from there. What ends up happening may be different from your original plan, but it could still work.

3. Blaming the representative

Blaming the individual representative for something not going your way simply isn't helpful. “Sometimes the procedures that we have in the company do not coincide with [a customer's] expectations, and that makes the interaction more challenging," Rivera says. "There is a point within the call or email where you don’t know what to do or say.”

Do this instead: Understand that sometimes company policies prevent customer service reps from doing exactly what you want. Try to be understanding and realize your issue isn't the fault of an individual representative. Be open to hearing their proposed solutions.

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