8 ways to complain and get what you want

Ring bell

Time to get someone’s attention…

All companies should strive to give good service but sometimes service falls short of what you’d expect. This is especially true at Christmas, when queues are long and tempers are short (read our frugal Christmas tips).

But it can also be very helpful to know these tips when you’re disputing a charge from your bank or if there are problems with one of your electrical goods or your utilities.

So how can you complain without being brushed off? Here are 8 simple steps to help you complain and get what you want.

Step 1: Calm down

Take a deep breath, let the red mist settle. Yes you’re angry and rightly so, but the decisions we make when we’re highly emotional won’t always be the best ones. So don’t complain angry!

Step 2: Get the facts, all of them

Keep a log, diary or timeline. Get the names of who you spoke to, when and as much information as you can. Keep letters and emails. Find out about the companies complaint procedure; most have one. If they don’t, find out who to complain to. Most will provide you with telephone, email or postal contacts. Know your rights as a consumer, what you’re entitled to legally and what falls under the company’s discretion.

Step 3: Don’t wait till it’s over

Get your complaint registered as soon as possible (after calming down!). The company may not be able to deal with the complaint until the immediate problem has been resolved (or as resolved as it’s going to get), but putting it off may affect you getting what you want. Make sure your complaint is with them within 28 days or so of the incident, but sooner is better.

Step 4: Decide what you want

Compensation? Flowers? An apology? Vouchers? Be realistic, did you suffer financial loss? You’re more likely to get some compensation. Bad service? Vouchers, flowers or an apology are more likely. It’s a negotiation; if you know what you want and what you’re prepared to argue, you’ll be in a stronger position. If you’ve suffered financial loss, things are pretty straightforward – ask for compensation. In other cases, ask them what they are prepared to do to resolve the situation, and don’t show your hand.

Step 5: Put it in writing

“He said, she said” will sink your complaint. Nothing beats the written word, via email or a letter, as proof to back up your complaint. Add copies of anything you’ve gathered – email printouts, order confirmations, the whole shebang. Also keep a copy of the letter you’re sending. The more serious a complaint, the more important it is to write in. Don’t be put off by having to write in; you can download template complaint letters off the internet and be done in less than 10 minutes.

Step 6: Be polite

Yes, you’re seething but being rude or emotional in your complaint won’t endear you to the person handling it. You don’t want to get sidetracked by a counter claim about your attitude or behaviour. Stick to the facts; don’t be rude but do be firm.

Step 7: Send it tracked

Pay less than £1 for tracking and get delivery that can be proven. It’s another bit of proof that will help with the next step…

Step 8: Follow up

Give them a date to reply (check their complaints procedure, they may already have a stated process). If not, 14 days is more than enough. Mark the date, plus a couple of business days to receive a reply. If you don’t hear back, escalate. Either use the company complaints escalation procedure or complain to an external body. Your proof of delivery of the initial complaint will be very useful here. You can also escalate to someone higher up the corporate ladder; don’t let them fob you off.

Bonus step

Are you on Twitter? If your company is represented there, follow them and tweet your complaint. It’s surprisingly effective!

Have you got any handy hints on how to complaint effectively? Let us know!

Posted by in Budgeting