Home > Personal Finance > 3 Things to Never Do When You Complain to Customer Service

Comments 0 Comments

Most people don’t call a customer service hotline because they’re happy. If you’ve picked up the phone and dialed a 1-800 number, chances are you want to complain about something. But bringing a bad attitude into the call isn’t likely to get you the results you want. That’s according to a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

The angrier or more aggressive you get during a customer service call, the greater the chance you’ll receive poor service in return, according to the paper, which was published in Journal of Applied Psychology. That’s not exactly surprising — most of us would predict that rudeness begets rudeness. But the researchers wanted to know what exactly customers were doing to antagonize customer service reps. To find out, they used transcripts and computerized text analysis to review over 100,000 words spoken in more than 400 calls to a Canadian customer service center. The goal was to identify how workers responded to what customers said during a conversation.

“We know that customer service quality suffers when customers are rude or aggressive to employees,” David Walker, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in the faculty of management at the UBC’s Okanagan campus, said in a statement. “But our research is one of the first to pinpoint the specific words service employees hear from customers that can undermine the quality of customer service.”

Consumer frustration with customer service is common. Even though many companies have taken steps to improve the way they deal with customer complaints, such as enhancing technology and adding services like chatbots, many people still report being unhappy with the way their problems are handled, according to Consumer Reports.

One of the biggest complaints was rude or condescending service. Seventy-five percent of people Consumer Reports surveyed said rude workers were a major annoyance. But the results of the UBC study are a reminder that impolite or uncooperative service reps may simply be responding to rudeness on the part of customers. Customer service calls are a two-way street. When callers pay attention to how they address the person who picks up the phone, they may get better service.

Specifically, there were several customer moves that triggered a negative response from workers, especially when those things occurred in combination. Do these three things the next time you complain to customer service and you may hurt your chances of getting your issue speedily resolved.

1. Use Aggressive Language

The more aggressive your language when talking to customer service, the less likely your problem will be resolved satisfactorily. Most people probably know that, but apparently it doesn’t stop people from getting sassy with innocent call center workers. Roughly three-quarters of the calls researchers studied contained aggressive language — words such as angry, complain, hassle, and nightmare.

No matter how frustrated you are, you tend to receive better results if you use positive language. When people used positive words like “great” and “fine” during a call, the customer service response improved.

2. Attack Them Personally

The customer service rep isn’t to blame for the faulty product you received, and you both know it. Taking out your frustration on them personally won’t help you get your complaint resolved faster. The researchers found that when a caller used aggressive language along with second-person pronouns like “you” and “your,” customer service got markedly worse.

Saying things like “Your product is garbage” puts the customer service rep on the defensive. Reframing those comments by saying “This product is garbage” yields better results.

3. Interrupt

Your mother told you it was rude to interrupt people, and she was right. Cutting off the customer service representative violates normal conversational rules and makes them less likely to want to help you. Nonetheless, the majority of calls analyzed in the study contained customer interruptions.

“[W]hen they interrupt the person they are talking to, we found that the employee’s negative reaction is much stronger,” study co-author Danielle van Jaarsveld said. Even if you’re pressed for time and want to get your issue resolved as quickly as possible, hear out the customer service rep. They may be trying to explain something important to you.

Overall, the lesson from the UBC study is that a little politeness goes a long way when it comes to getting your customer service issue resolved.

“If customers change their language so that it’s less about the employee and more about the product or problem in question, they can improve the quality of the customer service they get,” Walker said. “Employees can handle a lot, but when aggressive language and interruptions happen together — combined with minimal positive language from the customer — employees get to a point where customer service quality suffers. Customers need to remember that they’re dealing with human beings.”

[Editor’s Note: You can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.

Image: Mixmike

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other sponsored content on Credit.com are Partners with Credit.com. Credit.com receives compensation if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any financial products or cards offered.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.



Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team