[See: 50 Smart Money Moves.]
Go public. If you've had a terrible experience and aren't getting the desired response from the company, consider complaining publicly, through blogs or the media. Emily Yellin, author of "Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us: Customer Service and What It Reveals About Our World and Our Lives," says companies vary in how much attention they pay to what's said about them on the Internet. She points to Getsatisfaction.com as a useful resource. "Their whole thing is creating a social network to bring companies and customers together in a community that's civil," Yellin says. "You have to use your full name, and there's a real conversation [between customers and companies]."
Despite their sometimes impenetrable automated phone lines, companies are not the omniscient, technologically advanced entities they often present themselves to be – and it's up to customers to hold them accountable.