personal loan

Complain to customer service -- and win!

And she hadn't received her refund.

She called Midland Mortgage, which told her to call the county tax office, which told her to call the mortgage company.

Midland Mortgage's customer service rep told Mom that the company had no record of her tax exemption. When she said she had sent her copy of the tax bill at the company's request, the customer service rep asked what address she had sent it to. Mom didn't know.

She also had violated Kaplan's first rule: She didn't know the names of the first two customer service reps she had talked to.

The phone call got ugly.

"I said, 'Why don't you transfer me to your tax office?'" Mom says. "She said she isn't allowed to do that. I said, 'Let me speak to the manager of your department.' She said, 'I'm not allowed to transfer you to my manager.'"

The customer service rep offered to transfer Mom to the voice-mail of her direct supervisor, a step below the department manager. "I said, 'What is the name of the supervisor whose voice-mail you're going to transfer me to?' She said there are a lot of supervisors and that she had no way of knowing.

"She continued to say she couldn't do this and couldn't do that. It really made me mad. It sounded like it was just an avoidance technique."

Mom made another important mistake here. She tried to skip up the chain of command.

Danny Sullivan, the supervisor of customer service for Midland Mortgage, says the customer service representative violated the company's rules. She could have -- and should have -- given the name and extension of her supervisor. The company's quality control team monitors representatives to make sure they don't violate such rules.

"The policy is that we ask our customer service representatives to handle each call by all reasonable means," Sullivan says. "Certainly, there's a process by which they can get a supervisor. As far as it going beyond that, to the manager level, vice president level and so forth, we do ask that the representatives do go through the proper chain of command."

Take a breather, write a letter
Mom says she was tempted to drive the 200 miles from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City "and find that customer-service department because I was so angry at that firewall. You just can't get through it."

She waited overnight to cool down and called the next day and got hold of another customer service representative and had a similar conversation.

"They are impeccably polite, but it's like talking to a well-trained robot," she says.

Kaplan approves of a cool-down period. Try not to get angry, he says, and if you do get angry, don't aim it at the customer service representative. "I think people have forgotten in this day and age that when you call somebody on a customer service line, that person is a person. too," he says.

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Kaplan suggests saying, "Hi, how are you?" when a customer service rep answers the phone because few callers offer that kind of greeting. "You've just put yourself at the top of the pack," he says. "That person is answering calls all day long, and believe me, they will help you more."

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