NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Whether it's on the phone with a customer service representative or in person at a retail store, you've likely experienced frustration with a customer complaint. While most companies now train their employees in active listening and acknowledgment of your concerns, you want more than just "We're sorry." You want something done. So how do you make it happen?

Be Specific

Matthew Storm is a Director of Innovation and Solutions for NICE Systems, a company that helps businesses improve their customer relations. He tells people to be specific. "[Checking off] 'one star' doesn't give details," he said. "Giving more specific tells them what happened."

Scott Hirsch, vice president of product and content marketing at, agrees.

"You want to share your issues directly," he says, "But you want to share them in a way where you're not obscuring the issue with emotions.

Bottom line? Adopt a "just the facts, ma'am," type approach. Write down a list of the things that went wrong, as factually and dispassionately as you can. This will keep the focus on caused your dissatisfaction, rather than how you feel about it. The former is in the company's control. The latter is not.

Be Consistent

According to Storm, one of the big mistakes that consumers with a complaint make is changing the channel. "If you had a problem in person, speak to someone in the store," he says. On the other hand, if your problem relates to a customer service experience over the phone, escalate up the chain of command and try to get a supervisor.

"A lot of times, when people get emotional, they start using other forms of feedback," he says. "Telling someone in a call center about how bad things are in a store isn't going to do much." The converse is also true. "Sending an email can easily fall into a black hole," he said.

"There's this myth that if I complain on Twitter the company will respond," says Hirsch. "It's simply not true." Smaller companies tend to be more responsive about social media complaints, whereas larger companies might or might not have a robust presence on social media, including responding to customer complaints.

Be Polite

It should go without saying, but you need to avoid using foul or abusive language when you make a complaint. "Especially over the phone, customer service reps are told to disengage when that happens," says Storm. "Disengage" basically means hang up. No matter how mad you are, you're not mad at the person you're speaking to, and the person don't deserve to be spoken to abusively.

"Be direct. Don't sugar coat things. But don't get carried away with emotion," he suggests.

Request a Callback

The best-worded customer complaint in the world isn't going to do anything if that's where it ends. Be specific and ask for a callback, says Storm. "I rarely get a callback when I leave bad feedback," he says. "Now I go ahead and arrange for a callback." What this means is that you have confirmation that your customer complaint is going up the chain of command.

Don't Be Afraid to Solve the Problem Yourself

Hirsch points out that, in the age of the Internet and message boards, a lot of problems can be troubleshot by you at home using the Internet. "Exhaust all the possibilities for getting an answer to your question on your own first," Hirsch said. This might spare you from having to call customer service at all. In the event that you do have to call customer service, you'll be able to tell them that you did X, Y and Z before you called them.

When all else fails, escalate. "Some companies have a retention department," explains Hirsch. "They're incentivized to keep customers, so if you have a long-term relationship with a company, this is the place to go."

--Written by Nicholas Pell for MainStreet