Bad Customer Service: When To Fight Back (And When To Let It Go)

by the FairShake Team

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Bad customer service is one of the most ubiquitous things on the planet. We’ve all had a bad experience with customer service, somewhere, at some point — and that means we all know how frustrating it can be.

When customer service lets you down, it can be a highly emotional situation. That can make it difficult to separate your immediate, emotional reactions from the logic and clear-headed thinking you need to determine what you should do next. Should you fight back? Complain about the service you received? Just chalk it up to a bad day and let it go?

That’s where this guide comes in.

We know how frustrating a bad customer service experience can be. We want to help.

So if you’ve faced bad customer service recently, first of all, take a deep breath. Then, read on to learn all about what you can do when you receive bad customer service: How to react, when you should complain, how to complain effectively, and what rights you have as a consumer.

Bad Customer Service: Do Customers Have Any Legal Rights?

No, there aren’t any laws that prohibit bad customer service. However, as a paying customer of a company, you do have certain rights.

In exchange for your continued, timely payment, you’re entitled to receive the goods or services you pay for.

You also have a right to be treated with deference and respect during the process.

And if you’re not satisfied — with your goods, services, or the customer service treatment you receive — then you have a right to complain, and to have your complaint heard and addressed.

All of that is a little bit subjective, we know. So let’s look at some customer service situations you might encounter, and whether a complaint about the service would be warranted for each of them.

When Should You Complain About Customer Service (And When Should You Not)?

What does “bad customer service” mean exactly?

Answering that question will help you determine whether your customer service experience is something you should complain about, or just let go.

Reasons You Should Not Complain About Bad Customer Service

Sometimes you can have what seems like a bad customer service experience, but it really isn’t.

For example, if the customer service representative doesn’t give you the solution you want, it’s not necessarily bad customer service. If they’re polite and do their best to help you, you shouldn’t complain simply because the outcome isn’t exactly what you hoped for. Customer service representatives have policies and procedures they have to follow, and can’t always give customers everything they want.

Similarly, if your motivation for making a complaint is to punish a customer service agent, either because they didn’t solve an issue to your satisfaction or for any personal reason, you don’t have legitimate grounds for making a complaint. Complaining about bad customer service should only be done with the end goal of having your complaint resolved by a company.

Reasons You Should Complain About Bad Customer Service

That said, though, there are definitely situations in which complaining about your customer service experience is very much warranted. Here are some of them.

If the Customer Service Team Is Unreachable or Doesn’t Communicate Consistently

Customers should have the very reasonable expectation that they can reach a representative quickly if they have a problem.

If you can’t figure out how to reach customer service, that’s a problem you should complain about. If you can reach customer service, and they don’t respond to you within a few days, that’s another potential reason to complain. After all, you can’t expect customer service to help solve your problem if you can’t communicate effectively with them.

If the Customer Support Representative Dismisses Your Concerns

A customer service representative’s job, first and foremost, is to listen to customers’ complaints and problems. So if you encounter an agent who doesn’t do that, you might want to consider complaining.

If the customer service person acts like your issue isn’t important to them, if they cut you off or interrupt, or if they ignore any details of your problem, you might want to escalate your complaint.

If the Customer Support Representative Doesn’t Try to Offer Help

If the customer support representative you encounter listens to your problem, but then offers no assistance, you might have a valid reason for a complaint. Keep in mind, though, this is different from a situation where the support person doesn’t know how to help and needs to gather more information before following up with you later.

If the Customer Support Representative Blames You for Your Issue

Sure, some issues are due to user error. If that’s the case, though, your customer support representative should still politely offer help and solutions. If they simply blame you for your problems without offering any help, you can and probably should complain about your support experience.

If the Customer Support Representative Doesn’t Follow Through

If a customer service worker offers you a solution, you can expect that they’ll follow through. However, if they don’t, you might consider escalating your complaint.

How to Effectively Complain About Bad Customer Service

If you’ve determined that you have a legitimate reason to complain about the customer service you received, the next step is to figure out how to complain effectively.

In some of these situations, it’s not easy to stay calm and complain in a way that will get your voice heard. Follow these steps and tips to do so.

Stay Calm and Professional

Yes, you will get frustrated. But it’s important to stay calm, polite, and professional as you voice and escalate your complaint.

Document Everything

If possible, correspond about your complaint in writing so you have documentation of everything that’s said by both parties. If you have to talk to a company representative on the phone, ask if you can record the conversation. If they say no, take careful notes.

Start By Escalating Your Complaint

If you have a bad experience with a customer service representative at a company, your first step is to escalate your complaint up the company’s chain of command. Ask the service person for their manager. If they try to resist, insist on speaking with their supervisor. Continue to ask for supervisors if you continue to receive bad service.

Take to Social Media

If escalating your complaint doesn’t get you a resolution, you might have better luck by posting about your problem on social media and tagging the company. They don’t want that kind of bad press, so in many cases, this gets companies to respond faster and with more favorable solutions. 

Be Realistic About Your Complaint

Know that you may not get a resolution that’s exactly what you hoped for. At the end of the day, the company controls its response, not you.

But Stand Your Ground

If your complaint is legitimate, however, don’t back down. Keep escalating for as long as you can.

Complain to Regulatory Agencies If Possible

If you’ve exhausted every avenue for escalating your complaint within the company and still have not received a resolution, you might look for any oversight or regulatory agencies, like the Federal Communications Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These types of federal agencies have the power to investigate the companies they oversee, and can impose penalties if they’re caught in any wrongdoing.

When All Else Fails, There’s FairShake

If you have a complaint about a company and you’re struggling to get justice, you don’t have to fight alone.

At FairShake, we specialize in helping consumers take back their power by taking on even the biggest companies. We guide you through the process of consumer arbitration, which can help you find justice, and even get money back. Best of all, we’ll be by your side at every step of the process.

Ready to see how FairShake can help you get your voice heard and your complaint resolved?


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