Even if all the customers had legitimate grievances, assuming their behavior is as accurate as reported, nobody's going to be on their side now. Least of all, the employees at those businesses.
"After 25 years of being yelled at, insulted and called names I'm not familiar with, I'm more likely to help consumers who act like a human being," Swift says, who recommends just presenting the facts, and keeping emotion out of it when filing a complaint.
[Read: The Benefits of Financial Therapy.]
Shep Hyken, a motivational speaker whose specialty is customer service and author of "Amaze Every Customer Every Time," concurs with Swift. He suggests being polite – even if you're actually steamed. "Don't yell, regardless of how upset you might be. It can only make an already tenuous situation worse," Hyken says.
If you're having trouble controlling your anger, and it's impossible to hide, then be upfront about it, says Marilyn Suttle, who co-authored "Who's Your Gladys?" – a business book about turning one's most difficult customer into a fan. Suttle suggests saying something along the lines of: "I want to let you know that I'm really upset right now, and it has nothing to do with you personally."
Giving a warning like that "helps put the services staff on alert that there's a problem without causing them to get defensive," Suttle says. And if your customer service representative is defensive, you've just started a war, a war that you may not win. And remember, you want to win.
Flattery will get you everywhere. Really, the secret to getting good customer service is to be nice and compliment whoever you're talking to, according to Suttle.
Suttle suggests empathizing with whomever you're trying to get help from. Yes, it may take some Oscar-caliber acting if you truly feel you've been wronged because your luggage is lost or your sports car broke down a few miles away from the lot, but as Suttle says, if you say something like, "I imagine you've had to deal with long lines of complaining customers all day," instantly, the customer service person will see you as an ally, and not the enemy.
But bring on the toast because Suttle recommends really buttering people up. She suggests the phrasing: "I'm struggling here, and I really need a hero. I'd so appreciate you if you'd take this on for me."
Granted, you may want to insert your own version of dialogue for Suttle's. If you're a Merchant Marine who bench presses 300, and you really just want a fee removed, Suttle's flowery language may not quite work.
And true, you can risk laying it on too thick and come off as insincere, but Suttle's point is an accurate one. You always want to stand out from the other customers – but in a good way – when trying to get a problem resolved. Rest assured: If an employee is turning his smartphone on you and looks ready to press "upload to YouTube," you're doing something wrong.