The Rules of the Road

Mauree Miller

The Rules of the Road

In each one of my stories, you will see how certain principles work to achieve the result—a return, a credit, a refund, a change in policy, addressing bad customer service.  You can learn to make things right in any setting, be it a large corporation, a retail chain, or a single owner shop.  I’ve had friends say to me, “I heard the Mauree in my head.” They have also thought, “What would Mauree do in this situation?”  No, my friends don’t hallucinate. They’ve heard my litany of adventures and realize that walking away from a bad situation isn’t usually the best option.

What can seem hopeless really isn’t hopeless if you follow a few simple concepts.

  1. Stand your ground:  Never give up, even if it’s a struggle to stay the course.  It can be taxing-- sometimes I wonder if I’m shriveling and shrinking because of the wear and tear. Maybe I am, but I’ll never stop until I finish. Anyone who’s been on the opposite end of my tongue knows that. 
  2. Obstacles can be overcome: Stonewalling is often a tool that people use when trying to avoid making things right or giving service. However, it is rare that you can’t get past it.  Often I hear, “I’m the manager” or “the manager/executive doesn’t talk to people.” Not buying that line! There is almost always a way to get up the ladder to the right person to resolve your issue.
  3. Be clear on the problem and state it succinctly: You can’t get your point across if you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Make sure that you are on solid ground before you begin, and tell your story clearly and articulately.
  4. Escalate: If you aren’t making progress at the lower level—the cashier, salesperson, or customer service representative—go higher.  There are 2 basic criteria for escalation—either you aren’t getting the correct result at the lower level, or the situation is so complicated that someone at the lower level cannot resolve it through standard channels.
  5. Keep good records: When you are dealing with a difficult person, ask their name so you can pinpoint the source of the problem. Then when you go higher, the problem person can be educated on the right approach so things can change. Be sure to hold on to the contact information of the person who resolved the issue, because you don’t know when you might need to go back to them to follow up or for a subsequent issue. Even if that person leaves the company, I’ve found that having that original number can lead to a new person in the same position.
    Be sure to ask for the first and the last name or initial along with the employee ID number and the call center location.  Later, if you are dissatisfied with the result, it is easier to for the next person to see the call documentation and problem, giving you instant credibility. In the movie You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan complains that people only use their first names, making it sound like our world is turning into, “a generation of cocktail waitresses”. We need cocktail waitresses, but not in customer service. I used to be stumped as to why a customer service representative would need to hide in virtual anonymity, but having lived through consumer horror stories, I see quite clearly why—and have also learned to get around it.
  6. Make sure that you’re on solid ground and have a good, logical argument: Just because you want something doesn’t mean that what you want is right.  Think through the issue, put together a logical argument, and if it makes sense go for it but if it doesn’t, just move on.
  7. The most important thing to remember—IF NO ONE SPEAKS UP, NOTHING CHANGES!

Next time, you’ll start to see how it all comes together—my consumer crusading adventures to follow.


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