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. Feel empowered and get complaining. 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! For more help, advice, tips, information and templates buy the book!
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 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.
4) 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.
5) Describe events, bullet points are useful and make it very clear, especially when dates are involved.
6) If the complaint is long, summarise the points (e.g. 10 phone calls, 2 visits, 2 letters, wrong information etc.)
7) Say what you want as recompense. Is it an apology, money back, something for inconvenience? Be reasonable but assertive.
8) 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.
9) 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 here. See Hints and Tips for contacting the CEO too. 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.
10) 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 Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 for purchases and services prior to October 1st and the Consumer Rights Act 2015 for purchases and services after October 1st 2015 and the many others you will find around the site. You can search for laws in the search box
11) Use reference numbers where appropriate, make it easy for them to find your case.
12) Keep copies of everything; you may need them if you have to take the matter further (Senior Management, Small Claims Court etc).
13) Send copies where appropriate. For example, if a faulty washing machine has destroyed some clothes, send pictures of the clothes.
14) Use good English! PLEASE! 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!
15) 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!)
16) Always try and obtain the name(s) of anyone you are complaining about, who gave you advice, wrote to you etc.
17) 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. This shows that you are a frequent customer so they are less likely to risk losing you.
18) Inform them that if you are not happy you will take the matter further using the relevant people and organisations e.g. Financial 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).
19) 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. More on writing versus phoning here.
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.
Did you find these useful? then please share with others:
Keep up to date with latest news in The Complaining Cow’s world of consumer affairs and receive more free tips sign up for the newsletter
and if you need more than just free tips see Services More tips, advice, template letters and all the details on consumer laws you need in the book too! Youtube channel for media appearances regarding how to complain effectively.
Films made for Citizen’s Advice Bureau:
For when things go wrong with customer services and you want to go further: