How To Use A Bad Customer Experience And Get More

How to use a bad customer experience and get more

Bad customer service leaves an awful taste in your mouth. Here’s what happens:

  1. peeved customer
  2. loyalty lost for the company

Not the situation either side had hoped for when they woke up in the morning.

But how do you transform the situation so that you end up getting more at the end of the transaction?

When your hard-earned money’s involved: you expect to be treated well. And beyond that, you want to get what you were promised: a quality product delivered in a timely manner. You want a good great deal.

A bad experience is always a bad deal.

It’s not only about the value of your money either. It’s also about your time. You may be able to get your money back, but you’ll never get your time back.

Feel Good About Your Decisions

Dale Carnegie wrote in his classic book--How to Win Friends & Influence People--that among our basic wants (including food, health, money, and sex) is that “feeling of importance”.

Mr. Carnegie call this want a hunger, a deep craving in fact.

It's no wonder then that you should feel peeved with bad customer service. Not only is it an affront to your valued resources (time + money), it’s also a personal affront.

No one wants to feel dismissed, treated poorly, or ripped off.

You want to feel good about your decision at the end of any transaction.

But how do you get more value out of your money and time from a bad customer experience … so that you feel good at the end of the transaction?

Negotiate And Get More

About four years ago, I picked up this book by Stuart Diamond on negotiation: Getting More: How You Can Negotiate To Succeed in Work and Life.

Everyone can always up their game in negotiation. So why not get practical tips from an Ivy league professor who teaches negotiation for a living? Here are my 5 takeaways from this book:

  1. Know your goal. It’s key to staying focused and getting what you want. So first things first we need to ask ourselves: what do we want to accomplish?

  2. Know who the decision maker is. Often, our time and energy is wasted because we talk to the wrong person who has no authority to make any decisions.

    Case in point: a few years ago, I asked my supervisor for a higher raise than they typically give.

    I presented my case why I deserved this raise. I gathered my numbers so she could see my results to justify my ask.

    She was impressed with my presentation and told me she’d have to check and get back to me.

    A few weeks later, she told me she’ll give me the typical 2% raise but couldn’t give me the raise I was asking for.

    It wasn’t her fault, it was mine. She was not the decision maker.

  3. Step into the other person's shoes. This is an exercise of empathy when we try to see things as the other person would see it.

    Try to imagine what the other person wants, what their goals are. When we do, then we can speak their language.

    By speaking their language, we increase our chance to connect and have a conversation.

    The by-product when we try to understand the other person is that they’d want to reciprocate as well leading to a more productive dialogue.

  4. Quote their standards. Everyone has standards.

    Companies have policies stating their standards. Review them and state where they’ve come up short.

    Any experience we have short of what they promised is a rip-off. They promised better, and by extension we deserve better.

  5. Re-think compromise. Compromise is NOT always the answer. In fact, as Mr. Diamond points out in his book, compromise is a lazy way to negotiate.

    When we compromise, we get less.

    Here’s a visual:


    When assertiveness and cooperativeness are high, we collaborate. When assertiveness and cooperativeness are low, we avoid. Compromise is the in between.

    It's not to say that we should never compromise and only collaborate. Like most things in life, it’s not black and white.

    It depends on what’s at stake and our time constraints. At times, compromising may be your better bet. However, it may not always be the best option either. You’re the best judge of that.

    Bottom line: the key is knowing what you want. If you know that you have a case, speak up and stay on course.

Three Personal Stories

Negotiation is a skill learned through action. Take any chance you can to use and build on this skill.

So here are my 3 stories where I spoke up about my less than stellar experience and ended up getting more.

1. I got a $25 gift card for free.

I was shopping at a store looking for bed sheets about two years ago. The local flyer promised great sales at this store so off I went.

While I was looking at my options inside a bin, a customer agent came in between me and the bin essentially blocking my direct view.

Confused, I tapped the employee’s shoulder and said "excuse me?". No answer. So I told him that he was blocking my view.

He looked back my way, rolled his eyes and then walked away.

Maybe he was having a bad day and I could have let it go. But I intended to get my bed sheets from this store and it was a low-stake situation to practice negotiation. So I wanted to see what they could do for me.

I found the store manager (the decision-maker) and presented my case. I mentioned that I was a returning customer. Although I didn’t agree with how I was treated by one of her employees, I was hoping to buy my bedsheet from her store because they were having great sale.

I asked if she could provide an additional discount on my purchase to compensate for my unpleasant experience.

The manager agreed that their customers deserved to be treated better. She apologized on behalf of her employee and offered me a $25 gift card which of course I gladly accepted. I stacked this with my bed sheets that were already on sale.

Related: Free Gift Card Offers (Up To $100 To Popular Stores)

2. I got free dinner for five people - a $200+ value.

About three years ago, we decided to try out a new chain restaurant that opened in our community for dinner. We went just before 5pm because we had our two year old with us and her bedtime was around 7-7:30pm.

We were second in line when we came in and my first question was how long would it take for all 5 of us to be seated. They said 5-10 minutes. Perfect.

However, because we had an odd number, new customers who came after us--those who needed tables for 2 or 4--would get seated first. So after 15 minutes, I followed up and asked how much longer for us to be seated. They said, 5-10 more minutes. Well, another 30 minutes passed by...45 minutes in total, our stomachs were grumbling and my two year old was getting hungry+cranky.

Again, I followed up and received the same answer: 5-10 minutes of wait. Since we’ve already invested 45 minutes, we didn’t want to leave in case a spot did open up in “5-10 minutes”.

Long story short: about 1.5 hours later, we were finally seated. We knew exactly what we wanted as we had time to review the menu while we were waiting!

After we took our order, I asked to speak to the manager. My hubby and I explained that we were promised 5-10 minutes of wait the moment we walked in just before 5pm and every time after that when we followed up. Now it was close to 7pm and we just finished placing our order. We realized that they just opened so it may have been hard for them to provide an accurate wait time, still the total wait was 1.5 hours.

So we asked for a discounted bill to compensate for the 1.5 hours we’ve waited when we were promised 5-10 minutes every time we asked how long the wait was.

The manager ended up offering to cover our entire dinner bill.

Related: Eating Out At Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide To Spending Less

3. I got a free gift for my sister that would have cost me $83.62.

Final example is just a few weeks ago...

First of all, as you know, when we’re in a rush and do not plan our purchases: we have no recourse. We get desperate and we end up spending more money than if we took the time to plan and research our purchase...which is another topic altogether.

And so it was: my sister’s birthday was the following day and she lives out of town. So I needed to make something happen and quick. (No, I did not even send a card.)

Feeling guilty, I decided to overcompensate by ordering an expensive fruit-arrangement delivered directly to her.

My sister had plans during the day of her birthday, but I managed to zero in a time at 11am when she could receive the fruit-arrangement delivery herself. They were unable to guarantee such a specific time even though I was paying $15 in addition for delivery.

However, because I was desperate, I agreed to a two-hour window between 9am and 11am.

At 3pm, I found out that the fruit arrangement had not been delivered.

So I called them and shared that I expected better for the premium price I paid. I couldn’t justify to myself paying so much when I felt like they did not fulfill their part of the bargain, which included a personal delivery within our agreed upon time window. So I asked for a refund and requested that my order be cancelled.

They gave me a refund and they still delivered the fruit arrangement to my sister at a later time.

Final Thoughts...

Speaking up and asking for what we want can be intimidating. No one wants to feel rejected.

However, what if you try to see things from their perspective? Isn’t it also in their interest to keep their customers (you) happy and retain your loyalty? Isn’t your feedback a way for them to improve and grow their business?

I’m the first to admit: not all my negotiation attempts have led to a “yes”. But...

Here’s what I know: you won’t get any YES if you don’t ask your question in the first place.

Now, I know I’ve asked you lots of questions already...

But one last thing, tell me:

  • Do you negotiate? If so, what for (ie: deals, salary, etc)?
  • If you rarely or don’t negotiate: what’s holding you back?

Leave a comment - the more detailed the better!

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About the author: Maria spent her childhood in the Philippines and moved to Canada when she was 16. Now in her mid-thirties, she’s still very much cost-conscious and loves a great deal if she can help it.


Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

Editorial Disclaimer: The content here reflects the author's opinion alone, and is not endorsed or sponsored by a bank, credit card issuer, rewards program or other entity.

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Michael @ So You Think You Can Save's picture

On our recent trip to Disney World we had a poor dining experience at the place that we had thought would be our top experience. It was the one meal my wife 'had to have' and things just didn't go well. Workers kept cutting around our table, we felt rushed because we had the last seating time for lunch, and they were trying to convert things over to dinner, and a few other things. I asked to speak to the manager and let him know of our disappointment. He agreed that the things we were upset about should not have happened and offered to provide us with a replacement seating at any other time of our stay. Keep in mind this place fills up six months in advance, so we gladly took it. The replacement experience was perfect and I made sure to let him know afterward that it was what we had envisioned all along.

It's nice when places decide to make things right.

February 02, 2016 @ 11:43 am
Maria Weyman
Maria Weyman's picture

That's a great point Michael. Often times we just need to speak up and explain why. Good companies realize the value of each customer and would want to make things right. Glad to hear that you and your wife got to have a do-over with your must-have meal and ended up having a perfect can't put a value on that :)

February 02, 2016 @ 12:20 pm
Randy Keeler
Randy Keeler's picture

I'm a bit of a photographer, I drag my wife around with me often when I go into 'the city' ( Toronto) There was a street festival of buskers in the city...I just had to go. We stopped by a very large hotels 'street cafe' for lunch. The waitress who served us was the most pompous piece of femininity I had ever come across. Now I believe that it is far better to 'nice someone' to death before being confrontational. Even a simple request for directions for the latrine garnered the same results. I notice a young man in a suit that was obviously the boss. This man was used to getting things done, he had that 'authority' about him, you had no trouble seeing that. I waited until we were leaving, got his attention and told him what I felt about the server, in a nice engaging tone. He gave me his card and apologized profusely, adding "if there is anything I can do to make your stay in Toronto me". I did two weeks later. Told him I need to book a night in the city for a David Gilmour Concert. His reply... honour a reservation with your credit card..and the room will be free.

February 04, 2016 @ 7:34 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Excellent work spotting the decision maker right away there Randy and engaging him in a friendly way as not to turn him off from the get go. That's really the way to go. Be casual and friendly and try to show the person how you are helping them by bringing all of this up and they will be much more likely to try and help you out.

February 05, 2016 @ 9:33 am
Derek @ MoneyAhoy's picture

Those are great examples. I really like the restaurant one in particular. This drives me crazy when it take WAY longer than the time quoted. I will have to remember the next time this happens to us to get the manager involved.

This really is great advice all around - you never know if you'll get a discount unless you ask!

February 25, 2016 @ 1:18 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Absolutely - any time there is a bad customer experience there is a chance to let the business make things right - which is really win-win for both parties if the business owner or manager is smart.

February 27, 2016 @ 8:44 pm

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