Top 20 Tips on how to complain effectively

The Complaining Cow’s Top 20 Tips for How to Complain Effectively!

Follow these rules and you’ll never be palmed off again with excuses, fob offs contravention of Laws and no refunds again. How to complain to feel empowered and get results!

Don’t forget to come back and tell us how you got on through a tweet or Blog comment. I like to hear about other people’s successes too!

First stage to complaining

1) Act quickly. Don’t waste weeks moaning, complain that day but remember to ensure you are calm if complaining in person or on the ‘phone!

2) Ensure your grievance is valid. Don’t waste your time sending pointless correspondence with little weight it won’t get you anywhere. They need to know that you are serious.

3) Always try and obtain the name(s) of anyone you are complaining about, who gave you advice, wrote to you etc.

4) Write don’t phone. This gives you your evidence trail.

Use the telephone if you are comfortable doing this. Some people prefer this finding it easier. But I rarely do this and always refuse if a ‘phone call is offered. This is because I get heated (raise your voice and you’ve lost), there is no record for future use, no proof of what was said and you’ll forget something! Emails/letters provide time to reflect, ensure you don’t forget anything and provide you with a record of correspondence which cannot be denied.

If you do ‘phone ensure that you get the full name of the person with whom you are talking. Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively for more on this.

How to make an effective complaint

5) Always try to sort things out through Customer Services/the Manager first. If you are still not happy, then go to the CEO. You’ll find the details of CEOs  at See How to contact CEOs for more. You have more reason to go to the top if you have a complaint which has already been poorly dealt with than if you go straight there.

6) Always be polite. Remember that the people you are dealing with are not the people who have annoyed you and they are more likely to respond positively if you are polite. I am tempted to be sarcastic in nearly every letter I send but rarely does the complaint warrant it. Only use it after careful consideration and if it adds some humour. Never swear! Be rude and they can understandably refuse to deal with you.

7) Be objective, don’t accuse and insult with phrases such as “…she was stupid,” use words and phrases like “…it appeared to me that…” Do however state facts.

8) Always point out what a good customer you are and how you have always found the company to be really good in the past etc. Show them they don’t want to lose you as a customer.

Write a complaint email that will get results

9) Describe events, bullet points are useful and make it very clear, especially when dates are involved. If the complaint is long, summarise the points (e.g. 10 phone calls, 2 visits, 2 letters, wrong information etc.)

10) Send copies where appropriate. For example, if a faulty washing machine has destroyed some clothes, send pictures of the clothes.

11) Use reference numbers where appropriate, make it easy for them to find your case.

12) Use good English! Poor grammar and spelling shows you in as poor a light as the company to which you are complaining. You also won’t be taken seriously and anything you have to say will be taken with a pinch of salt if you can’t get your own house in order! If English isn’t your strong point get someone to read through your email before you send it.

13) Be formal. Use “Yours sincerely” when you know the person’s name and “Yours faithfully” when Dear Sir or Madam. No “love” froms! (I’ve seen it!)

Use consumer law in your letter of complaint

14) Exercise your legal rights and use the relevant Laws and legal jargon wherever possible to show that you know your legal rights which will always be taken seriously if used appropriately. Make sure you use the correct years and phrases, in particular the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for purchases and services after October 1st 2015and the many others you will find around the site. You can search for laws in the search box.

Tell the trader what it is you want when you complain

15) Say what you want as recompense. Is it an apology, money back, something for inconvenience? Be reasonable but assertive.

16) Set a deadline for when you expect to hear back and let them know what you will be doing if you don’t receive a satisfactory response.

Taking things further

17) Inform them that if you are not happy you will take the matter further using the relevant people and organisations e.g. Ombudsman, Trading Standards, Small Claims Court their own complaint procedure, the media, review sites  (The Complaining Cow’s Blog!) etc. Only threaten if you are sure that it will have the desired effect and you are prepared to spend the time and effort taking it further (Small Claims Court for example).

18) Keep copies of everything; you may need them if you have to take the matter further (Senior Management, Small Claims Court etc).

See How to take things further.

Further advice on complaining effectively

19) Social media can be a useful tool but needs to be used in the most effective way and it does have limitations. 5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should) and Is Social Media An Effective Method for Complaining?

20) Never apologise for complaining! If your complaint is valid then you are owed something and the company should thank you for bringing it to their attention so they can improve service for all customers.

The Complaining Cow resources for helping you complain effectively

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