5 steps to getting results from customer service

HOUSTON – Online shopping can make life convenient, but that doesn't always mean you will get what you see on your screen. When the item is not what you expected, there are ways to complain effectively. Consumer expert Amy Davis explains the four things you need to do to get the results you want. 

Step 1: Ask yourself, "What would make the situation right?" 

Before you ever reach out to customer service, you need to know exactly what would make you a happy customer, whether it's a refund, a credit or a replacement item. Make your desire clear when you contact the company.  

Step 2: Get your facts straight

To make this process smoother, get your facts straight. Before you make that first call, review warranties, guarantees and the policies of the company. Gather order numbers and shipping numbers, and define ahead of time what resolution will satisfy you. 

Step 3: Keep calm and take notes

Who did you speak with at what date and time? What did they say? If you get passed around from one representative to another, you will want these notes to explain the runaround you received to a supervisor.

Step 4: Clear your head

Prepare yourself for the call by remembering that what you want is resolution, and this is best accomplished by maintaining a cool but determined attitude. If the call center representative does not satisfy you, ask to speak to a supervisor.  

Step 5: Take further action 

If the company is still unresponsive, consider reaching out to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission or even your state’s attorney general’s office for help. 

When dozens of customers complained about a company called Dollar Tee Club advertising on Facebook last year, Davis Googled the company. She found a Better Business Bureau complaint out of Tampa. BBB reports usually list important information, like the company's address and the owner's name. Using that information, Davis found the owner on Facebook and messaged him. He responded and sent the T-shirt to the consumer who called, 3 months after placing her order. 

When you write a letter to the company, avoid using the words court, lawyer or legal action. Sometimes this can slow down a resolution because big companies will just forward your complaint to their own legal department, where it will sit. 

Instead, you want your letter to reasonable and brief. Include just the facts including your name, contact information, summary of your problem and a reasonable deadline to fix the problem. Include a "cc" to let the business know you are also sending the letter to consumer expert Amy Davis, the Texas Attorney General's office and the Better Business Bureau. 

Last year, the BBB was able to get the Houston Chronicle to respond to hundreds of frustrated subscribers. Don't discount the BBB, especially when the company you are dealing with is a member. They want to keep their membership in good standing. 

You can also put your complaint on social media, but experts say it’s better to phrase it as a plea for help rather than a rant.