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Consumer Alert

Top tips for resolving complaints with companies

Usually, by the time someone writes in for help to solve a problem, they’ve gotten frustrated, hit a few walls, and become pretty much resigned to failure. But every so often a reader will persist — working all the angles until finally emerging with an acceptable solution.

Let’s face it, not every fight can be won with even the best tactics. Sometimes, an outside party — whether it’s a newspaper, a government agency, or another organization — is needed.

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But if you can fight your best fight and use tactics that have helped others succeed, at least you’ll know you did what you could before raising the flag to seek help.

Here are five tips learned from fellow readers who brought their A games and put one in the win column for consumers:

Don’t give up. Persistence is required. But just asking over and over again is not going to do it. Make your persistence work for you by following up on requests, asking lots of questions, and reminding them that you’re not just going to go away.

Remain calm. Breathe deep. Exhale. OK, now it’s time to bring it on. The more confrontational you are, the less sympathetic you’re going to be. Deliver your message professionally, clearly explaining the situation and why you believe it’s a problem .

Have evidence and be organized. Make a folder with any receipts, photos, or other documentation to help bolster your case. The more the discussion is about facts, rather than opinions, the better it will go.

A supervisor has more authority. If you can’t get an acceptable resolution, escalate. Politely request to speak with a manager. Remember, managers also have supervisors. The chain of command can go quite some distance, particularly at large companies.

Spoken words only last for seconds. Writing lasts a lot longer. If you’ve been promised a solution in a conversation, ask also for a letter or an e-mail to that effect.

If all that doesn’t work, my e-mail address appears below.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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