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How to Complain and Get Results

On the face of it, the idea that people need to be told how to complain is ridiculous. It's something we all do, all the time - in the privacy of our minds, at least. When we want to take things a step further, and complain to those at fault, we should be fully equipped. But the truth is that many of us are not. Some are too reticent, not wanting to make a fuss. Others are too outspoken, turning the situation into a farce with their hyperbole.

It's all about finding a happy medium.

With that in mind, here are some tips to making complaints which will get you results.

☆ Complain to the right person. By this, I don't mean spend hours upon hours researching a company's internal structure to find the individual who will deal with your specific complaint. What I mean is, don't take out your anger and frustration on your initial contact. It's no good telling the Saturday check out girl you will never shop at the store again because of the CEO's stance on tax evasion, just as it's not going to help your case if you give the call centre staff of the company a hard time. In most instances it's their job just to log the complaint and pass it on to the relevant department; they would love to have control over how that complaint is then dealt with and acted upon. It would mean they weren't sat in a call centre listening to the same thing day in, day out.

Retail Comic - lady complains about the company website, the store assistant is nonplussed

☆ Think about your contact method. As any workman will tell you, you need to choose the right tool for the job. One of the most common complaints I get in work are that people have rung the Council, been put on hold for ages, and then 'fobbed off'. This often translates into a scenario like telephoning Call Torfaen to report missed bin collection, or something similar, which the push button options marked as low priority. When they finally got through to a member of staff, half hour or so later, it was just logged for action and the call was over. That's really annoying, I agree, but people can report that missed bin by email, on the council app, the online contact form, and via social media. If you have internet access - and as most people then email me this complaint, the odds seem pretty good - you could have saved yourself half an hour and a lot of hassle for exactly the same outcome, while helping to keep the phone lines clear for those who don't have the option.

Some complaints work best with human contact, others are routine and can easily be submitted in writing. (Written communication also makes it easier to keep records of what was said, when, and by who.) Even in the former instance, it's often better to arrange a meeting rather than just turn up or telephone on the off chance. If the person you need to see / speak to isn't there, you have just wasted time you'll never get back. Letters, emails, etc can be easily forwarded to the appropriate person for you. Ask them to contact you - you can even specify when - and don't make life more aggravating than it needs to be!

☆ Explain what the problem is. It sounds painfully obvious, I know, but you would be surprised at the amount of people who simply say they are disgusted with the service and forget to elaborate further. Be clear and specific about what went wrong, and why you have had to make the complaint. The more information you give, the better placed the person following it up is to confirm and corroborate what has happened.

Examples of basic complaint and complaint with more information about the 5 Ws.
Use the '5 Ws' when writing your complaint: Who, What, Where, When and Why?

 Tell them what you want to happen next. The standard response to a complaint is an apology - if you want something more, you need to tell them! If you want someone to contact you about it within a particular time frame, say that, don't just expect it to happen. Similarly, if you're looking for a refund or other recompense, be clear about it so everyone knows where they stand. That's not to say you'll get it, of course, but by asking you won't have lost anything.

☆ Have a back up plan. If your complaint doesn't get you anywhere, you may well need to escalate things. This might mean going to someone more senior - e.g. going over the head of the manager of your local branch of the supermarket, and complaining to headquarters, or taking your complaint to the ombudsman - or it might mean letting the rest of the world know about your experience by posting about it on social media and review websites. When you make your complaint, let them know that you are willing to take things further.

Be Like Bill meme.
With great power comes great responsibility.

 Keep your cool. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but remember how it was worse when your parents were disappointed in you than when they were angry? It's the same when you make a complaint. Tell them you know they can do better, and that your experience must be an exception. In the majority of cases, they'll want to prove you right. Remember too that shouting and swearing will only make people less inclined to help you. Policies on customer aggression will differ from workplace to workplace but, fundamentally, why would you think it acceptable for someone to be threatened and intimidated, more than likely over something they had nothing to do with? Even if they are the one at fault, if you can't act like a reasonable human being, why should they? Be polite and 99% of people will do their best for you, be a dick and 99% of people will do the absolute minimum.

☆ dnt rite lk ths!!!!! Nobody expects your spelling and grammar to be perfect, we can't all be Stephen Fry, after all. What people will expect is that you recognise the difference between making a complaint, and texting your mate down the pub. It's depressing how often I'm sent complaints on formal issues - housing, education, planning - in text speak. If you want people to take your complaint seriously, you need to too!

Do you have any tips on getting complaints resolved?

A Bit Of Everything Cuddle Fairy
My Random Musings


  1. Great advice...
    I have found complaining on Twitter really helps too. I have had issues with British Gas and Tesco in the past...I was fobbed off by the people on the phones and through email. On Twitter I got a response and a solution in minutes...Companies don't want to look bad in public. hehehe

    1. I've taken to reporting abandoned shopping trolleys on Twitter - they look such a mess so they get back to me way quicker when everyone else can see! ;)

  2. I've had luck at least getting a response on twitter also

    1. I think it does make a difference, having that bad publicity.

  3. We've had great luck complaining on Twitter with everyone watching they reply quicker! Great tips - love the 5 W's! #Abitofeverything

  4. Great post. Some years ago I used to work in for a large insurance company on the telephones so although I wasn't in the complaints department everything you've highlighted here is really true. It's surprising how more inclined we were to help somebody when they didn't jump up and down screaming and shouting at you!
    In recent weeks I picked up the baton from an elderly neighbour who was left without a phone for 2 or 3 wks. I didn't bother ringing them, but found a couple of tweets really worked wonders! #BloggerClubUk
    Angela x

    1. It's my idea of a nightmare job working in customer complaints for a big company. I don't know how people deal with it, people can be so rude and really vicious when they're frustrated. I'm using Twitter more lately for my usual complaints. :)

  5. Some fantastic tips here. I like to think that I do a lot of this already when moaning (I'm almost 40, I'm allowed to moan, right?) but it's worth looking back on this time next time I'm gearing up to whinge!

    1. Hehe, sometimes you need to gear up for a really big one. My OH says he likes to keep a constant stream of complaint on simmer at all times, lol.

  6. Dat last 1 is wel rite. Eurgh nobody will take any complaint seriously with terrible grammar, it probably gets sent round the office for everyone to have a good laugh! I have a friend that loves to complain, I squirm when she does but I really enjoy the compensation she gets! I'd hate to be on the other end of a complaint, the things they put up with, poor souls #effitfriday

    1. The first time I had one like it I thought it must be a total one-off because people surely wouldn't do that... but I was wrong! Oh gosh, you reminded me of a meal I went for once and my friend just *kept* complaining - not because there was anything wrong with her meal, she just hadn't read the menu properly and didn't like it. They were so nice and accommodating about it, changing bit and finally just bringing a different dish - but I was just cringing the whole time! x

  7. This is great advice, especially the last one. If I received a complaint written like that, it would go straight into the b.i.n file ;) If the person complaining doesn't take it seriously, you can pretty much guarantee the person receiving the complaint won't either.
    I also agree about the shouting and swearing - no one is going to help anyone with that attitude.
    I would also add, pick your battles. If it's something silly that's wound you up because you're having a bad day, let it go!
    Thanks for linking up to #effitfriday

    1. I can't believe how wound up some people get over little things, to the extent of yelling and stuff like that while making the complaint. I know they could have all sorts going on in their lives, but you do just feel it can't be good for their blood pressure! x

  8. Hilarious! I will go out of my way not to complain - I hate confrontation of any kind! Great postx #effitfriday

  9. This made me giggle, I must admit I am pretty rubbish at complaining.I normally get my husband to do it when we need to. However I will betaking these points into account and give it a go next time! Thanks for joining us at #BloggerClubUK hope to see you again next week x

    1. I always do the letters and stuff like that, but if it's there in the moment I usually get OH to do it too! x


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