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Effective Tone and Attitude
After you have determined to assert your rights as a consumer, you have to determine how to do this most effectively. Asserting your claim in an aggressive or emotional way may make you feel better but won't often help you get what you want. The key to better treatment is the use of effective tone and attitude when dealing with the company.
The term that I often use to refer to proper tone and attitude when dealing with a difficult company is this one: polite but firm. Dealing with the company in this way shows that you are striving to assert your rights to fairness, while still treating the company and its employees with respect. If you are not firm, the company may not adequately consider your needs, but if you are impolite you will not get anywhere at all..
When dealing with a problem firm, you should always keep at the forefront your goals in the communication. What are trying to accomplish? What is it that you want from the firm to resolve the issue? Sometimes people don't think about this before they get on the phone, and they end up going in circles a bit. :^) Having your objective clear in your mind allows you to work towards a solution instead of just focusing on the problem. It can help the company resolve the matter in a way that you'll find acceptable, because sometimes the representative may want to help but not be able to figure out what it is you want. It's always best to control your anger and work towards a solution, instead of just arguing with the company.
It is also very useful to try to get the people you are dealing with to understand where you are coming from in any conflict situation. You don't want their sympathy necessarily, but you do want them to understand how the behavior of their firm has impacted upon you. A customer service representative who talks to a hundred people a day may never bother to consider the disagreement from your individual perspective; help that person to understand how you have been inconvenienced by their company's actions. This can help defuse an argument and allow you both to find an acceptable answer to the issue.
Finally, remember that while a company may seem large and inhuman, it is comprised of humans. The person on the other end of the phone may represent "the company" but he or she is still a person, with goals and objectives, emotions and flaws. Always treat that "other person" with respect. Remember too that in some cases someone will recognize that they are in the wrong but will be reluctant to appear to "lose" the argument. If you provide your opponent with a way to "save face" you may more readily accomplish your objective, and that's what this is all about.
Next: Using The Hierarchy