Small-Claims Court Cures Bad Customer Service

By Rick Kahler

NEW YORK (AdviceIQ) -- The car under warranty whose engine freezes up. The valuable lost airline baggage that never shows up. The malfunctioning cable box that doesnt get fixed or replaced. What if you, the customer, complain but get no satisfaction? Sometimes big companies with near-monopolies seem indifferent to customer service. The answer? File a small-claims lawsuit. This last-ditch action gets results.

Every business, no matter how good, now and then fails to deliver on a promise. Conscientious companies quickly admit to the failure and do whatever is reasonable to make things right with the customer. Sometimes, their responses strengthen the complaining customer's faith in and loyalty to the company.

Not all companies, or their employees, are this sensitive to customer service. If the company is small with plenty of competition, customers can express dissatisfaction easily by voting with their feet and their mouths. That is, they can take their business elsewhere and tell others (typically around 200 people) about their bad experience. If a business makes a habit of offending customers, it will fail eventually.

Unfortunately, it isn't this simple when a large company has a near-monopoly on the service you need. The most obvious examples: governmental agencies, public transportation or utility companies. Less obvious examples are phone companies, airlines, cable TV operators or Internet service providers. Even with two or three competitors from which to choose, I frequently find my specific needs limit me to dealing with only one. Of course, a lot of big companies make a point of delivering great customer service. When they dont, though, you have a problem.

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