How to Complain and Get Results, Every Time
Making a complaint against a company can be a daunting prospect. It’s a task that can reduce reasonable people to howling dervishes of frustration, but if done well, it can resolve the issue easily and leave you satisfied instead. So what is the difference in someone who hits a frustrating wall and someone who complains successfully and gets what they wanted? The difference is in approach, and these steps are the key to approaching the situation like a winner.
Make sure your complaint is valid
It is possible that you’ve signed a bit of fine print that means you’re stuck with your problem, or that the product’s guarantee has long run out, or that any number of other factors have come into play which render your complaint potentially invalid. Check the guarantee, the contract (if one was involved) and other relevant information to make sure you’ve got a leg to stand on with your complaint.
Decide what you want to achieve
Jumping headlong into a complaint with only a vague sense of anger as your guide will likely get you nowhere – so take the time do figure out what the ideal outcome of this complaint will be. Are you looking for a refund, or compensation? Would you be satisfied with just an apology? Once you know what you want, you can plan how to get it. Bear in mind, you have to act quickly if you want a refund – once you have “accepted” the product, you often lose your entitlement to a refund. Similarly, if you want compensation for lost time or for being put out by a faulty item or service, the complaints procedure becomes much more complicated and may have to involve lawyers.
Do your homework
Take some time to research your rights as a consumer before your complaint. If you are able to reference that this exploded TV goes against the Supply of Goods and Services Act of 1983, then do so! The demonstration that you know your rights will always ensure a company treats you more seriously, as you are demonstrating that you will be paying attention to the company’s actions with a legal mindset.
Photocopy all relevant documents you have concerning the complaint – including bank statements, receipts and advertisements, and attach the copies to your complaint to strengthen your case. Keeping the originals yourself allows you to make more copies whenever necessary to send to higher-ups in the company, provide as duplicates or, if worst comes to worst, present to an ombudsman.
Complain in person or write – don’t phone in
It’s easy to brush off a disgruntled customer on the other end of a phone line. The customer can’t see who they are talking to, and can be made to jump through hoops until they give up on their complaint. However, a customer who has taken the time to write and back up their complaint with relevant documents, or one who is currently stood in the store, asking for the management, is much harder to simply sweep under the carpet. Whichever approach you choose, remember to be polite and reasonable. An angry or irrational approach will simply give the company an excuse not to deal with you, and your complaint will not be taken seriously. If you decide to send a letter:
Address your letter to a specific person
Addressing your letter to a particular individual, for example the customer service manager, will ensure it reaches that person rather than simply being screened out by lower-level employees who may not be able to help you.
Aiming too high, for example addressing your letter to the CEO of the company, may result in their reading the letter, but will far more likely simply result in a delay as the letter is sent back down to someone appropriately low in the ranks to deal with.
Proofread your letter!
A messily-written complaint full of spelling errors will do little to inspire respect from the company and may lead to your complaint being treated less seriously. Check it thoroughly for mistakes and poor grammar before sending it.
Don’t forget to include your details in the letter too – information like your customer number (if you have one) or your order number will all help the company to identify you on their internal records and ensure your complaint is processed properly. An inability to locate you on the company’s records may lead to a delay in dealing with your complaint, so be thorough!
Don’t be afraid to use social media if ignored
If your complaint is ignored, fobbed off or mysteriously disappears, don’t be afraid to reiterate it by tweeting at the company or posting on their facebook page. The pressure of having a potentially embarrassing complaint in the public sphere often ensures companies react more quickly to complaints made on social media, to avoid bad publicity. Keep the pressure on by continuing to speak to them in public on social media until you get the desired response.
Taking your complaint to an ombudsman
Once you have tried to sort your problem with a company and they haven’t helped you satisfactorily, you can take the complaint to a free-to-use ombudsman for that industry. Not all industry sectors and services have an ombudsman, so search online or make a few calls before getting in touch with one. It is a good idea to keep a record of your interactions with the company up until this point for use by the ombudsman as they investigate the issue. Tasked with ensuring industry standards are maintained, if you have a legitimate complaint they will fight your corner, but remember that they are not your first port of call! You must have first tried to resolve the issue with the company in question, before bothering the bigger fish.