How To Complain Effectively

The British are a nation of non complainers, apparently. We let people queue jump with only a frown to acknowledge our dismay, we put up with less than satisfactory meals because we don’t want to cause a fuss with our fellow diners, and we pay exorbitant bank charges without so much of a whimper as we think they must be in the right. But isn’t it time we fought back against bad service, shoddy goods, long holds on the telephone and poor customer service? Trouble is, there is an effective way to go about complaining to get a result and there is the ineffective way. We have put together some tips to get you the best results from your complaints. Please let us know if any of them have helped you!

Know Your Rights

Anything that you have bought must be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last for a reasonable length of time. You are protected by The Sale of Goods Act 1979, so what does this this mean in real terms? Satisfactory quality, in a legal context and in a dispute with a shop, means goods must be in a state that you, or any other normal, reasonable person would think was reasonable. As described is self explanatory, for example if you ordered a Cath Kidston sewing box and you got a John Lewis lamp shade it would not be ‘as described’. Fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time means that what you have bought must work and not fall to bits after an hour’s use. Now you know your rights, here’s how to complain effectively.

Face to Face

Above all other things – keep calm! Do not raise your voice, become aggressive or swear, this will automatically make the person you are complaining to switch off and you will get nowhere. Make a mental note of what it is you are upset about or wish to make a complaint about and speak in a calm but authoritative manner. State what you are complaining about, point out the obvious problems and ask for a refund, part refund (if dining out in a restaurant for example and only part of the meal was unacceptable) and if you cannot resolve your problem ask for the name and address of the manager or complaints department.

Complaining by Letter

Make sure you have the actual name and address of who you should be complaining to, Sir or Madam will just get passed around the office and left unanswered. Have ready all of your evidence so you can post it in one go and make sure you keep copies of everything you send. Type your letter, do not hand write it as a written letter is to hard to decipher. If you can, make your letter a little humorous, so it stands out from all the other complaints the person is likely to receive. If it puts a smile on their face they are more likely to help you. Put your letter in a different coloured envelope, anything to make it look different. Do not be specific in what you expect in compensation. Leave it up to the company, they may exceed your expectations!

Complaining by Telephone

Have a bullet point list of notes about your complaint next to you so you do not lose track of what you want to say. Many people get fired up once on the telephone and forget important details once they get into a conversation with an operator of a call centre complaints advisor. Use flattery to achieve your goals, phrases such as ‘I always use your services’ and ‘I never shop anywhere else’ and ‘I’m sure this is not your usual standard and if you can demonstrate to me by resolving this issue it would restore my faith in you’ is bound to have some effect. Never be aggressive or rude and do not use words like ‘Your company’ or ‘You’, instead say ‘The company’ or ‘The store’ or use the name of the store. This is showing that you do not blame the person you are speaking to.

If you do not get a satisfactory result, then the next weapon in your arsenal is writing to the Trading Standards, The Financial Ombudsman or taking the issue to the small claims court, and remember to tell the person or company that this is what you are doing. It may be enough for them to pay up.

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