Get your complaints heard, issues resolved

Frustration over dropped calls or slow service plague phone and Internet services and are a constant thorn in consumers' sides.

Angie Hicks, the creator of service referral website Angie's List, told Local 2 that when it comes to consumer complaints, people are not just using the phone and Internet to moan and groan. They are actually complaining about phone and Internet services.

"In 2011, these categories ranked among the most complained-about categories on Angie's list," said Hicks.

The most common complaints were dropped calls, outages, slow service, and billing disputes. Amber Connor certainly understands that last one.

"My husband spent a couple of hours on the phone with the cell phone provider and we basically hit a brick wall they told us the fees were not going to go away," said Connor.

After the Connors switched service providers, besides the surprise fees, they came home to find their cellphones did not work in many areas of their home.

Hicks said the key to successful complaining is before you pick up the phone be prepared by documenting when and where the problems occurred, and how long they lasted. Any specific details provided can only help your complaint.

"Know what service you need, what your problem is, and also check around with competitors. Lots of the communication services are offering all kinds of deals these days, so know what's out there so you can ask for that deal as well," said Hicks.

Also, get the person's name you are talking with and record the time and length of the call. These details will increase your credibility if you need to follow up later.

Know what steps you want the company to take to rectify the situation.

"He let them know that he was very disappointed in their customer service because this is not what two different salespeople had shared with us. Luckily we were inside the time 'return for free' time window and we returned to our old provider that we had for ten years," Connor said.

If you are a longtime customer, let them know that and if you are not getting a positive response, ask to speak to the company's consumer retention department.

Before you pick up the phone, know if you can walk away or have to stay to fulfill a contract. Be assertive, but not angry, and explain the consequences of what you will do if the issue is not fixed, whether that is filing a complaint or terminating your service.

Language can be a big part of your success. Rather than accusing the company tell them you need their help to fix this issue or ask for a bill break down rather than accusing them of price gouging.

Having them on your side trying to fix the problem may be the fastest way to finding a solution you want.

Consumer Complaints Hit List:

  • Have the facts at your fingertips. Be ready with the details of what is wrong before you call. Documentation is key in winning the complaint war. If there is an issue with your bill, have a copy of the bill in front of you. Also, record the name of the person you are speaking with and note the date and time you called. These details will increase your credibility if you need to follow up later. Finally, be prepared with what steps you would like the company to take to rectify the situation.
  • Act assertive, not angry. Starting out nasty will instantly put the other person on the defensive. A great opening line is to tell the company that you have "a problem" and are looking for help in how to solve it. Explain the facts without showing emotion (lip biting permitted).
  • Always, always follow the Golden Rule. Treat the company with respect, even in the way you explain your complaint. As an example, if it appears a repair has not worked, rather than accusing the company of doing the job "wrong," let them know you're still having the same problem and are in need of their help. If a bill turns out to be higher than expected, ask for a detailed breakdown of the bill before you accuse them of "price-gouging."
  • Go to the top. If the person answering the phone is not responsive to your complaint, ask to speak to the company's consumer retention department. Don't antagonize this person. He or she will be more encouraged to refer you to the right "higher-up." Another hint, tell that person you will be sure to explain to the manager how well you've been treated.
  • Explain the consequences. If you're not getting a positive response, explain what will happen if you don't get action. If you have been a long time customer, let them know this and assert that they will no longer have your business. If you have referred others to them, point that out as well.
  • Scope out the Competition. Keep an eye out for special promotions from competitors. If your provider can't match the competition's offer, don't hesitate to change companies. Just make sure the price of the new plan compensates for any equipment you need to install. Be prepared to end your service if you can't get the service you deserve.

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