Comedian George Carlin made famous seven “dirty” words you should never say on television. Likewise, I have a list of seven things you should never say to a customer service representative. Mention any of these and your conversation will come to an abrupt end—along with any hope for a quick resolution to your dispute.
1. “Lawyer.” As in, “I’m going to call my attorney.” This will end the conversation instantly and eliminate any future communications, except between guys in expensive suits with bar cards. Corporate legal departments train customer service agents to terminate the dialogue any time a caller mentions going to court or getting a lawyer involved. For the same reason, avoid using legal terms, such as “lawsuit,” “district attorney,” or “mandatory sentencing.”
I’m not saying that there are never situations that call for you to bring in a lawyer; it’s just that there’s no upside in advertising your next move ahead of time. Going to court is rarely a profitable course of action for small consumer matters. It’s best to try all other alternatives first. However, if you’re actually going to take the business to court, the first hint to the opponent should be the glint in the eye of the guy serving the subpoena.
2. “Job.” You never want to say something along the lines of, “I’m going to make sure you lose your job.” First of all, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to get someone fired. Second, you’re much better off with the agent as your ally, rather than your enemy. Threatening someone’s employment rarely engenders close cooperation or special favors. It may seem counterintuitive, but you’re going to get much better results if you acknowledge the difficult position the agent is in and compliment her on how she’s handling the situation—even if you think she’s been stonewalling and insensitive.
Companies that take advantage of their customers usually don’t treat their employees any better. You might be the only person in recent history to have told the agent, “Good job.” This approach is much more likely to garner positive results than a frontal attack on the person’s livelihood.