It's that moment that most of us dread, realizing that something is awry on a bill, an order, or a service and there's no way around have to call customer service.

There's no way to predict how a customer service call may end up. It could be quick, friendly, and get your issue resolved promptly, or it can be long, arduous, and sometimes even a little snippy. Here are a couple strategies to try to make the process as painless as possible:

  • Don't delay

    The moment you notice a problem or an issue, call right away. When it comes to bills, you don't want to risk any additional fees or charges. If it's merchandise that you ordered, most of a time there's a window of time to report issues and make returns, which many times differ from company to company.

  • Have everything in order before you call

    In almost every situation, the first thing a representative (or automated system) will ask for is your account number or order number. I don't know about you, but even though I've had service through the same cable company for 4+ years, I've never taken the time to memorize my account number. You also want to have the specific instance that you're calling about right in front of you so you can quote the representative specifics, i.e. "on November 14th, I was charged $xxx.xx for xxxx".

  • Keep your cool

    This is one of the most difficult things to do when dealing with a frustrating situation. But a couple things to keep in mind; first, the phone representative is going to be a lot more willing to go out of their way to help you if you're friendly and calm. Also keep in mind that, no matter how frustrating it can get, the person on the other end of the phone was just the one who's turn it was to answer the phone. Whatever the issue is, it's not their fault.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for a supervisor or someone else who can help you.

    I recently had an issue where a promotion that I had on my account for my cable service had expired. I called and asked the representative if we could put it back on, or if there were any other promos available. She said no to both and that the only way to lower my bill would be to lower my service level, which I didn't want to do. So I asked if there was any other department who might be able to help me. She transferred me and sure enough, the next person I got said that she could put me back on the exact same promotion that I had been on before. As ridiculous as it is, sometimes one department has access to offer you certain things while a different department doesn't.

    The same goes for asking to speak to a supervisor. If the person you're talking to just isn't resolving the issue to your satisfaction, don't be afraid to ask to speak to a supervisor.

  • Take notes

    You could get lucky and have your issue resolved quickly and with one call, or you may end up having to make multiple calls. If you do have to call again, you always want to be able to tell the new representative exactly what you were previously told and, if possible, who told you. Before I end a call I always ask the representative for his or her name and make a note of it.

  • If all else fails, write a letter

    This is another place where the notes you took before will come in handy. The first thing I'd suggest would be to Google the specific company and try to find out the name and email address of the head of customer relations, or heck even the CEO if you can find that information. Write a polite email outlining the issue, what you were told, how it may not have been resolved to your satisfaction, how you can be contacted, and that you expect a prompt response. If you feel it may help your cause, you can even throw in the suggestion that you may take your business elsewhere if your issue is not resolved to your satisfaction.

  • Don't give up

    Sometimes it can take multiple calls, emails, letters, etc, but don't give up! If the company truly made a mistake, it's up to them to fix it!

  • Let them know when things are good, too

    Finally, if you do have a good customer service experience, I'd suggest letting the company know. If you spoke to a phone representative who was friendly, resolved your issue quickly, and maybe even threw in a bonus or an extra, let the company know that. Customer service departments deal with so many complaints that they'll take notice of, and appreciate, a compliment. Who knows, maybe your letter will result in a bonus or promotion for the person who helped you. And hey, maybe the company will even thank you for your loyalty with a coupon or discount.