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Instead of wading through phone tree hell, pressing zero will usually take you to a live customer service rep.

Only one problem with the smoothie she handed me at the drive-thru. It wasn’t filled up all the way.

Of all the customer service nightmares I’ve experienced, this definitely belonged in the kiddie section. Still I had been shorted, and I thought I would bring it up.

I held up the drink to her with a smile and asked her why it wasn’t filled all the way.

At that point, she had two choices: Either empathize with me, value my concern or blow me off. Unfortunately for her, she chose poorly.

In so many words, she told that’s all I would get. Even though she was still smiling, but her body language said, “deal with it.”

“Really?” I responded, raising my eyebrows, but smiling a little less.

She shrugged her shoulders and immediately began to shut the drive-thru window, effectively dismissing me.

By now, most of you will accuse me of making a mountain out of a smoothie. So it’s a little short. Deal with it and move on, Henneke.

It wasn’t so much about the smoothie, as her lack of caring toward my concern. Had the employee at least apologized, I would have driven away only mildly miffed. But her lack of a response was enough to make me park and go inside to speak with the manager.

The manager instantly apologized, reaffirmed the validity of my concern and immediately offered to make it right. I thanked her, complimented this McDonald’s for its usual high standards for customer service and promised to return.

As companies look for ways to increase revenue and cut costs, employees are expected to do more work with less. Sometimes it’s easy for customer service to be sacrificed, and even easier for us to accept it as a reality.

Not so. Whether you’re piloting through phone-tree hell over a major warranty issue or getting your fast food order correct, there are some tips that can boost your chances for customer satisfaction.

1. Keep receipts and other important paperwork to minimize refund hassles. Nothing diminishes your case more when you can’t produce proof of your purchase. It’s too much to expect stores to take your word on buying the big screen there. We keep all important papers in a file cabinet and important receipts in a separate container.

2. Research your problem. A recent new cell phone began heating up on me as soon as I bought it, so much so, it was almost too hot to the touch. A quick Google search revealed a significant number of other people with the same issue. I returned the phone the next morning for a completely different model.

3. The customer service agent is your friend. Despite your frustration, this isn’t the time for profanity or name-calling. Try to establish a bond with them. Find out their first name or make them laugh. Establish that you’ve been a long-time customer and you hope to continue your loyalty with them. Be persistent but polite.

4. Don’t let the phone tree win: Sites such as GetHuman or ContactHelp are great tools to help you locate the right numbers to call and the average wait time expected for each company.

5. Take your case to social media. Most companies have reps who monitor its presence on Facebook or Twitter. One company gave me a bill credit after I alleged a rep had misled me about me about a promotion. Post a brief case of your problem on their Facebook page, with what it will take to keep your loyalty.

5. Point out good examples of customer service: Take time to fill out a comment card for an employee who got it right. Take time to list the store or employee by name. Most good companies still have incentive programs for employees who receive positive feedback from customers.

6. Don’t be afraid to start over: If you’re dealing with an incompetent customer service agent, end the conversation and call back. There’s a good chance the next person will be more helpful.

7. Accept the fact that you won’t always win: Sometimes it will seem like they don’t care, even if you go all the way to the top. Once I spent several weeks speaking with corporate representatives from Staples over a major shipping gaffe. In the end, I received a check for $25.

 Phone keypad photo from here.