These 5 magic phrases could solve your next consumer problem

Is there a magic word or phrase you can deploy for a lighting-fast, foolproof, 100 percent certain resolution? I’m asked that question often.

The answer is yes: please.

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Well, OK. Besides the obvious — you know, the magic word. What can consumers say to grease the wheels and make the process move along faster when they have a complaint? Excellent question.

After more than two decades of advocating for readers, I have a long list. But if I had to shorten it to just five phrases (better SEO, you know) then here’s what I’d offer:

“I reviewed the contract …”

Nothing boosts your chances of success — nothing! — like knowing your rights under the contract or under the law. If you tell an employee you’re informed, then they must do the right thing or they’ll end up in court.

If you say it nicely (don’t scream, “I know my rights!”) then conveying this information to a representative can be quite persuasive. But don’t say it unless you’ve actually done it. The employee could call your bluff.

“I’m a good customer.”

Stating your value to the company is important. A business is less likely to waste its time on a flash-in-the-pan bargain hunter, but on a true-blue loyal customer, it will go the extra mile. Here’s one of the only times a loyalty program works in your favor. Show the card. The company will see how valuable you are and resolve your problem accordingly.

By the way, this is bad news for the gamers and hackers who collect points on pudding boxes. The systems are smart enough to know that you have a negative value to the company and you should expect it to ignore you. Only show the card if you’re a legitimate big spender. Seriously.

“I’m sure this is an anomaly.”

Even if you suspect this isn’t true, saying that you think a negative experience is an aberration communicates the following message: I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I’ve seen emails with this phrasing get VIP treatment, all because it appeared that the customer wanted to believe the poor experience wasn’t the norm. This lines up with the worldview of the model employee, who believes their company is a force for good. True? Almost certainly not. But let ’em think it. If it helps your case, why not say it, too.

“I want to give the system a chance.”

This one could be read as a magnanimous gesture or a subtle threat. Generous, in the sense that you want to, you know, keep your case out of the papers. But a threat, in the sense that if the system doesn’t work, you reserve the right to try other measures. Note: Please do not mention “court” or “other venues” when you talk about the system. Everyone knows that “other venues” is just a synonym for: “Do what I want now or I’ll sue.”

“I look forward to patronizing your business again soon.”

Say it, and mean it. If the company does the right thing, why wouldn’t you come back? There’s also an implied threat that if the business doesn’t fix the problem, you won’t return. But what company wouldn’t want a chance to earn your business back. Except, maybe, an airline. Oh, you knew I was going to say that!

So take it from me, because I’ve seen it all. Use one or more of these magic phrases and your complaint will go to the top of the heap. They’re not really magic — just common sense. Something that’s in short supply in the consumer world.

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