by Rick Kahler
business, no matter how good, will now and then find itself in a position of
failing to deliver on a promise. Conscientious companies will quickly admit to
the failure and do whatever is reasonable to make things right with the
customer. Sometimes such actions even result in strengthening the customer's
faith in and loyalty to the company.
all companies, or their employees, are this sensitive to customer service. If
the company is small with plenty of competition, customers can easily express dissatisfaction
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
it isn't this simple when a large company has a near monopoly on the service
you need. The most obvious examples include governmental agencies, public
transportation, or public utility companies. Less obvious examples are phone
companies, airlines, cable TV companies, or Internet service providers. Even
with two or three from which to choose, I frequently find my specific needs
limit me to dealing with only one.
this instance, corporations can easily develop a culture of "you need us more
than we need you." I find few experiences more frustrating than dealing
with an unconcerned, uncaring, impotent employee of such a company. They often
deny any wrongdoing, refuse to make things right, and imply you are the real
can you do if you've appealed to every level of customer service with no
resolution—and the bottom line is that you do need their service more than they
need you? I've found myself in this situation a handful of times. In every case
I received satisfaction by filing a small claims action against the company.
small claim is a lawsuit for just what the name implies, small-dollar
disagreements. In Pennington County, SD, the maximum claim amount is $12,000. Filing
a small claim is easy and inexpensive. You don't need a lawyer. The employees
at the office of the Clerk of Courts will walk you through filling out the
simple form, calculating the fee (usually under $100), and contacting the
defendant. All you need is a written statement of what happened and some
written proof of your loss. When your day in court comes, the judge will guide
you through the informal hearing. You just need to tell your story and produce
paperwork supporting your claim.
when you file a small claim against a large company, chances are you won't ever
get to a hearing. The point in filing such a claim really isn't to have your
day in court; it's to get your grievance switched from the ineffective customer
service department to the much more responsive legal department. Since they don't
want to pay a local attorney to show up at a small claim hearing, it's likely
they will negotiate a satisfactory settlement with you.
they don't settle with you, be sure to show up at the hearing. I once sued an
airline that denied my claim but never made an effort to settle. On the day of
the hearing, it was just the judge and me, as a representative for the airline
never showed up. The judge ruled in my favor. Within a month, I received a
check for the full amount of my claim.
all else fails, try a small claim. It's an easy, fast, and often-effective way
to make sure you are compensated fairly for a loss. Even more, it's a way to
have your grievance heard.
Rick Kahler, Certified Financial Planner®, MS, ChFC, CCIM, founded Kahler Financial Group, and became South Dakota’s first fee-only financial planner in 1983. In 2009, Wealth Manager named Kahler Financial Group as the largest financial planning firm in a seven-state area. A pioneer in the evolution of integrating financial psychology with traditional financial planning profession, Rick is co-founder and co-facilitator of the five-day intensive Healing Money Issues Workshop offered by Onsite Workshops of Nashville, Tennessee. He is one of only a handful of planners nationwide who partner with professional coaches and financial therapists to deliver financial coaching and therapy to his clients. Visit KahlerFinancial.com today!