First of all let me go on the record by saying that I do not complain for the sake of it, and I only ever do it if I had a genuine concern or issue. I would never lie or make things up (theft/fraud anyone?!?) but more often than not companies will be pleased to receive feedback. Sometimes, you will receive something back for taking the time, and sometimes not. It is therefore important to never assume that by complaining you will be getting free stuff – just see it as a bonus if you do. Here are some of my top tips for how to complain.
- Your complaint needs to be genuine and reasonable (people who complain their coffee is too hot do my head in)!
- You should always be polite, however serious or upsetting your complaint is. Remember that the person reading the complaint will almost never be the person who was involved in the situation you are complaining about. Getting angry or being rude will only get their back up and they will be less likely to want to help you.
- You should be accurate and detailed (times, names, details etc will be really useful for the organisation to look in to your complaint fully).
- Explain why you are disappointed/upset and why you feel you need to bring it to the attention of the organisation.
- Mention any positives about the experience as well (for example the server was lovely, but the food was cold). I do feel that if you can mention positives in your complaint as well as the negatives, it can seem like a more genuine concern rather than just having a whinge.
- Address your complaint to the customer services team – the details of which you can usually find online.
If you feel that your complaint has not been appropriately addressed or resolved, the next step would be to escalate the issue to the CEO of the company. CEO Email is a great resource where you can find the contact details of the CEO of a massive number of UK companies, so you can address your complaint appropriately. If the contact details of the company you are looking for are not listed, get in touch and ask them – they can usually find the details out for you.
Another great resource is The Complaining Cow. The owner Helen Dewdney has appeared in a vast amount of media – TV and print, advising consumers on their rights and legislation regarding goods. She has a great amount of detailed information on her site.
I once complained to an American organisation about one of the most horrific experiences I had ever received. I was sure I would be receiving a full refund, if not compensation as well. They however ended up dismissing me out of hand and ignoring my emails. They also blocked my tweets (yes people actually do this). It was genuinely an awful and very upsetting and terrifying experience, but I got nowhere. Perhaps I was too upset when I wrote the email, or perhaps they just didn’t give a damn. At the other end of the spectrum, I posted a distinctly average review of a venue on Trip Advisor. The company involved got in touch and sent me a gift card (and this wasn’t even a complaint directly to them).
I recently had an issue whilst on holiday. I was unhappy with how it had been handled at the time so I decided to email a complaint on my return. The email explained who had been helpful but who hadn’t, and why I was disappointed. Whilst I was away a supervisor did step in and tried to resolve things for me. I acknowledged this in my email but for me the issue was serious enough to warrant the complaint. The company emailed me back within 2 working days, agreeing that the original level of service I had received was not acceptable and were very apologetic. They offered me £200 off my next holiday if I should chose to go with them again. I already had plans to – and as they do the dream trip to Alaska that I’ve always wanted to do, I’m now £200 closer to getting there! 🙂
Have you ever worked in a retail or customer facing environment? If so, you will know that you hardly ever receive feedback unless it is negative. Whilst the customer assumes they are always right, it’s not always the way. Frustratingly you still have to remain professional at all times! I could not work in a customer facing role – I’ve done it and it isn’t for me. I do however believe that people are quick to complain and people don’t receive enough positive feedback. This is true in all lines of work and all industries.
Due to this, I therefore try to go out of my way to provide positive feedback about a positive experience for every complaint that I submit. So, if I’m thinking about writing a complaint I will stop and have a think about the good experiences I may have had recently. A smile and a good bit of feedback to someone in a customer service role can really make their day and it doesn’t cost you anything!
As well as learning how to complain, watch out for receipts from purchases you make in store. More and more companies now are offering reward points or competition entries just for taking a code from the receipt and filling out a short feedback form online. This can be a great way to get rewarded as well. You can also make money from your receipts – find out more here.