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How to complain successfully

There are some people who are incredibly effective at making complaints. They seem to know instinctively how to pitch their problem, what to say, and what to do to get apologies, refunds, or other satisfactory outcomes.

Other people find that they just seem to end up shouting in frustration down the phone.

So what is it that the first group does that the second does not?

This page unpicks some of the issues involved in complaining and helps you learn how to complain effectively, whether in person or on the phone.

What is an Effective Complaint?

An effective complaint is one that is heard by the person at whom it is aimed, and which gets a result that pleases the complainant.

There are a number of simple rules to follow that will make your complaints more effective.

Rule 1:
Know what you want to achieve

The most effective complainants are those who have a clear idea of what they want to achieve from their complaint, and who set it out clearly to the person to whom they are complaining.

If you want a refund, for a product or service that didn’t live up to your expectations, say so. If a refund won’t be enough, say that too. If you are simply looking for an apology, then make it clear. This makes your complaint much easier to deal with and also more likely to be resolved to your satisfaction.

See our pages on Assertiveness to learn how to put your case forward, clearly and effectively.

Rule 2:
Threaten the company’s reputation

Effective complaints threaten to damage the company’s reputation in some way.

Not overtly; you don’t have to say ‘If you don’t respond, then I’ll go public’. It’s enough to say ‘I was really happy with you, and would have recommended you to all my friends, but now I don’t think I will’.

This will make the company concerned aware that you might just start telling your friends about your experience or, worse, talking about it via social media.

Rule 3:
Aim high and get personal

Most companies have a designated complaints procedure. You will probably get a reasonable result if you go through that procedure.

However, you’ll get at least that level of response if you write or email the chief executive directly, by name. You can generally find the details on the company’s website or via Google.

At the very worst, the chief executive’s PA will send your letter or email straight into the general complaints procedure. But it’s quite likely that the chief executive will at least see your email and that you will get some kind of personal response.

Rule 4:
Write or go in person, don’t phone

It is possible to make effective complaints by phone but, in general, the odds are stacked against you.

In the first place, you can’t see who you are talking to. You are therefore easy to fob off. A very junior person may promise to look into it and then do nothing. If you write or email the chief executive, your complaint is much harder to ignore. And if you’re standing at the reception desk, or on the shop floor, demanding to see someone senior every two or three minutes, you’re likely to get a much faster response because you’re embarrassing them.

Reputational damage is bad news for most companies.

If you really have to complain by phone, then remain focused on what you want to achieve and state it clearly:

  • Make sure that you keep a full record of the conversation, including the name of the person to whom you spoke.
  • If you’re not satisfied, ask to speak to that person’s manager and don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off with ‘He/she is on a coffee break right now’. Ask when they’ll be back and request that they call you back on return.
  • Ask for the manager’s name and, if they don’t call you back, call again and ask to speak to them.
  • Be persistent.

Rule 5:
Use social media, especially if you don’t get an immediate response

A complaint expressed via Twitter, especially with the hashtag of the company’s name together with ‘bad customer service’, is likely to get a very quick response.

Most large companies have someone monitoring Twitter for any sign of activity about them. Again, it’s about reputational damage. To make the matter even more high profile, aim your tweet at the chief executive if he or she is active on Twitter, using their @handle at the beginning of your tweet. Make sure that you have spent time crafting your tweet carefully to express the nature of your complaint, or saying how long it has taken to respond to your original complaint.

Rule 6:
Expect the unexpected

Don’t be thrown by a company’s response to your complaint. If you’ve complained effectively, you may well get a much higher level of response than you were expecting.

For example, the chief executive’s PA or a very senior manager may call you, or you may get a personal email or tweet from the chief executive. Whatever the level of the response, don’t feel that you need to jump at the first offer made: you can always say ‘Well, that sounds quite good, and I’d like that very much, but I’m still not confident that you’ve really taken on board x’. Quite apart from anything else, that gives you thinking time.

Rule 7:
Don’t get mad, get even

You’re angry. That’s why you’re complaining. But try to get calm before you email or pick up the phone.

Make sure that you’re right to be angry before you start jumping in at the deep end. Are you sure you haven’t misunderstood? Sometimes it can be better to wait a day or so before deciding whether to complain, although there will obviously be times when you just need to wade in, all guns blazing.

Rule 8:
If you don’t get the response that you want, say so

There is no point in seething to yourself. If you are talking to someone and they don’t seem to be listening to you, then say so.

If they are responding to a completely different point, then make that clear. If they are being downright rude, then ask politely if they are aware of how rude that sounded. And if you’re not happy that the person to whom you are talking has the authority to agree the response that you want, then ask to speak to their manager.

At all times, remain polite and clear about what you want to achieve.

Follow these rules but, above all, remain calm and focused on what you want to achieve. Your effectiveness at complaining should improve dramatically.

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!

How to complain successfully

Table of Contents

First stage to complaining

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 try and obtain the name(s) of anyone you are complaining about, who gave you advice, wrote to you etc.

4) 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. Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively for more on this.

How to make an effective complaint

5) 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 at ceoemail.com. See How to contact CEOs for more. 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.

6) 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.

7) 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.

8) 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.

Write a complaint email that will get results

9) Describe events, bullet points are useful and make it very clear, especially when dates are involved. If the complaint is long, summarise the points (e.g. 10 phone calls, 2 visits, 2 letters, wrong information etc.)

10) 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.

11) Use reference numbers where appropriate, make it easy for them to find your case.

12) 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! If English isn’t your strong point get someone to read through your email before you send it.

13) Say what you want as recompense. Is it an apology, money back, something for inconvenience? Be reasonable but assertive.

14) 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!)

15) 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).

16) Keep copies of everything; you may need them if you have to take the matter further (Senior Management, Small Claims Court etc).

17) Send copies where appropriate. For example, if a faulty washing machine has destroyed some clothes, send pictures of the clothes.

How to use consumer law

18) 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 2015 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

Further advice on complaining effectively

19) Social media can be a useful tool but needs to be used in the most effective way and it does have limitations. 5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should) and Is Social Media An Effective Method for Complaining?

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! Give it a tweet or a share on Facebook.

How to complain successfullyNo one likes a whiner. Complaining without a purpose or intent to help or affect change is just whining. Sometimes whining feels good. Our friends are often apt to oblige us and sympathize, but it generally doesn’t have a place at work. That said, there comes in time in every person’s worklife when it’s necessary–and desirable–to complain to improve a situation and improve your productivity. Done properly and to the correct person, complaining doesn’t have to be a negative event.

If you honestly want to improve your performance, any leader worth his or her salt would be interested in hearing from you. Your immediate superior is usually the best option when you need support from a co-worker, a person in another department, or the superior him- or herself. If you require physical resources, go to the appropriate personnel in the right department. If you want your desk reconfigured so you’re not facing the door, you might have to hit up facilities. If you want to inquire about flexible work hours, HR might be a good place to start. Or if your laptop is dinosaur-slow, your best bet might be IT.

There’s a right way to complain, if you decide it’s necessary:

1. Determine whether your issue is truly worth complaining about. If no one can do anything about it or it’s a minor issue you can easily work around, forget it. “The principle of the thing” is a distraction, unless the issue is truly important. Instead of cursing the darkness, turn on your smartphone’s flashlight mode.

2. Always have a solution when you complain about something. ASK specifically for what you want, explaining why what you have (the current situation) isn’t working. Surprisingly enough, people complain about not having things they’ve never officially requested. Instead of “whingeing,” as the British put it, ask. You may get it without any drama at all. People can’t read your mind, so don’t assume they know what you need.

3. Have all your ducks in a row before you present your request. Plan out what you intend to say in a logical fashion. Consider it a mini-presentation, where tone of voice, facial expression, body language, appearance, attitude, and proposed solution all serve as critical elements.

4. Present your complaint in a reasonable, tactful way, leaving emotion out of it. Make it clear why you feel justified in making the complaint. If your own behavior or lack of action have contributed to the problem, admit it, and ask what you can do to make things happen. Be concise and specific.

If the person you complain to proves unhelpful or nothing happens after several attempts to correct the situation, only then should you escalate the complaint. Going above someone’s head is a dangerous thing, especially when that someone is your boss. Co-workers tend to have long memories, and some aren’t particularly forgiving. So be sure to put on your kid gloves and be on your best behavior if you escalate.

*Photo provided by Microsoft

© 2014 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, is America’s Premier Expert in Productivity™. For over 20 years, Laura has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance, and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Laura is the bestselling author of six books, with over 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley, and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, Execution IS the Strategy (March 2014). Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

How to complain successfully

Most of us have experienced bad service at some point. Sometimes there’s no point making a complaint – you should simply take your custom elsewhere. Other situations really deserve a formal complaint. This can be very confusing and intimidating, and many people just give up. So here are some tips on how to make a complaint and reach a successful outcome.

1. Follow Correct Procedure

When making a written complaint, you should follow the procedure set out by the company you wish to complain to. It is generally expected that you exhaust the company’s own complaints procedures before taking your case to governing bodies or industry watchdogs; this may be frustrating but will help ensure that your complaint is taken seriously.

2. Know Who to Speak to

When you want to make a complaint, you need to know who is the right person to deal with. It wonВґt do any good talking to someone who doesnВґt have the power to rectify the problem. You will most likely need to speak to the manager, rather than a sales assistant who is not trained to deal with complaints.

3. Know What You Want

The smart complainer knows what outcome he or she is looking for. Do you want a formal apology, a replacement, a review of company procedures or for the item to be repaired? Also find out what your rights are, so that you can point out what you are entitled to.

4. Stay Calm

Sometimes we get such dreadful service from companies that it is very difficult not to lose your temper when you make a complaint. However, this will not help your case, so stay calm. If you get angry, youВґll probably be yelling at the wrong person, and no-one will be inclined to assist an aggressive customer.

5. Just the Facts

When you want to make a complaint, don’t get emotive. Stick to relating the facts and detail your reasons for complaining. While still providing clear information, try to be concise, so that the details are clear.

6. Check before Sending

If youВґre making a formal written complaint, itВґs tempting to dash off a letter or email and send it while the issue is fresh in your mind. However, this runs the risk of being emotional or of missing out an important point. Read over your letter before sending it, so that you are satisfied it includes everything you want to say.

7. Be Persistant

Companies often rely on people giving up after they make a complaint. Taking on a large company can be a slow and frustrating process, but speaking from experience I can say that persistance does pay. Perhaps they give up because they realise you are not going to, so keep at it!

8. Evidence

Any documents relevant to your complaint should be kept safe, so that you can provide evidence to support your grievance. Without such documents, it may come down to your word against someone elseВґs. Also keep a written record of events, phone calls, dates and times, as these may be of considerable use in supporting your claim.

ItВґs not always easy to know how to make a complaint, and people often prefer to avoid the hassle. However, these tips will help, so even if you donВґt have any gripes at the moment, bookmarking this post is bound to be useful at some point in the future. So when the need arises, you will know exactly how to make a complaint! Have you ever taken on a company and won?

OPINION: Complaining effectively over a shoddy good or service calls for both hard and soft skills.

It can also require the wisdom to accept partial victory, knowing the alternative is to waste years on embittered, unproductive pursuit of revenge.

During the past year, I’ve met many complainers, indicating some of the factors which lead some to succeed, and others fail.

In the months before Christmas, I covered the story of Auckland pensioner Bobby O’Connor, a nice man lacking many of the skills to complain.

He had the necessary determination to carry his complaint about a finance company pursuing him for the rump of a car loan gone wrong, but lacked the skills to engage successfully with it.

The money the finance company wanted to collect was the remains of an ill-fated loan in 2012, which ended with repossession after O’Connor suffered a sudden, and unexpected debilitating health episode.

Unfortunately, he’d accepted too many expensive add-ons to the loan, like insurance that didn’t cover his particular health crisis, and he overpaid for the car, meaning when it was resold after the repossession, he ended up still owing the better part of $7000.

Instead of facing up to the situation, O’Connor put his head in the sand.

As a strategy, that worked for a while, and the finance company let the loan slide for several years, before heading to court to get money diverted to pay off the loan from O’Connor’s NZ Super payments, leaving him struggling to make ends meet.

Decide what you want to achieve

When I met O’Connor, he was in a bad state, prone to tears, and very possibly depressed, but he knew what he wanted to achieve, which is the first step in successful complaining.

He didn’t know how to achieve it, however, and struggled to deal with complex systems like courts. He also didn’t understand his legal rights, and didn’t have the money to engage a lawyer to tell him.

His attempts to get the loan written off amounted to pleas for mercy.

Getting your information

O’Connor had only partial information about his predicament, and didn’t know how to wield the Privacy Act.

There was a court file he had not seen relating to an order to divert money from his NZ Super payments.

There was also a mass of information in the finance company’s files.

Unable to manage Privacy Act requests himself, O’Connor authorised me to make them for him to the courts and the finance company.

Ultimately, it was a note in the court file, in which a finance company employee told the court the loan was being written off, which persuaded the finance company to free O’Connor from the debt it was claiming.

Privacy Act requests can also reveal surprising, and powerful information.

In the case of Auckland widow Karen Van Golstein​, whom I met in August, that included a shocking smiley face in an insurer’s email to its medical adviser when it discovered grounds to turn down her claim.

The insurer ended up paying her claim

Patience, literacy, and a helper

Some complaints get settled quickly, but in other cases, it can seem like organisations prolong the process to discourage complainants, meaning patience can be a virtue for a complainer.

And some require complainants to have relatively high levels of literacy, and digital skills.

People who aren’t good on email, don’t read so well, struggle to research their rights, or find it had to push back to authority, need to find an advocate/helper.

O’Connor tried a community law centre, but it was not helpful. A budgeting agency like Christians Against Poverty might have been his next option, or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

In desperation, he turned to the media.

A civil tongue

Driven to frustration by an obdurate company, or government agency, people sometimes snap. This can end up acting against their interests.

While O’Connor was a courteous man, which played well for him with the finance company, I’ve met several men who ended up being “exited” from their banks for their behaviour, even though both were understandably angry.

One case I was involved with which didn’t result in a story involved a man accused by bank staff of telling them he had visited a branch during the limited opening hours in lockdown in order to give them Covid-19.

Sadly, the man lost his temper over this claim, and it doesn’t take much for a bank to label a complainant as “threatening”, and that makes resolution of the complaint much harder.

Letting them know you are serious

For complaints over smaller amounts of money, there are a number of simple, low-cost, complaints-handling bodies and tribunals like the Disputes Tribunal, the Banking Ombudsman, and the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal.

A company which knows a complainant will go to such a body may take it more seriously.

These bodies try to be easy to deal with, but still require a high degree of literacy in making an application to them, and again, many people will need to find themselves an advocate, or an ally.

A successful example of this was Dunedin man Mark Thorn who won compensation through the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal from a motor dealer who sold him a repaired insurance “write off” without explicitly telling him. Thorn was helped through the process by a highly-literate professional friend.

Accepting partial victory

Complainants I’ve met tend to have one or more of four desires: Compensation for losses and stress, a sincere apology, a guarantee others won’t have to suffer as they have, and revenge on individuals they hold responsible for wronging them.

Not all complaints-handling bodies are set up to achieve all these things.

Compensation levels may be lower than hoped for, and it can be unclear whether the organisation complained about has really been taught a lesson.

The maximum compensation the Banking Ombudsman can offer for stress and inconvenience is just $9000. Compensation for financial loss can be as high as $350,000.

Some complaints resolution bodies are very transparent and legalistic, like the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal. Others, like the Banking Ombudsman, have a heavier focus on negotiating outcomes, and do not name the companies involved.

To have a company held truly accountable for bad behaviour requires people to go to a government regulator like the Commerce Commission, or the Financial Markets Authority, but these do not have the resources act on all complaints.

How to complain successfully

  • June 15, 2017

The blender does not blend. Your vacation was spoiled by a late flight. Or the cabinet you bought is as sturdy as wet cardboard.

When products or services fail, it’s easy to feel as if your complaints to the company responsible disappear into a black hole. While there are no magic words, there are a few tricks to help your complaint get a friendlier reading. All it takes is a little finesse, and some good documentation.

Vent, then write

“Deal with your emotions,” Meg Marco, executive editor of Consumerist, which is a part of Consumer Reports, said. The most effective letters of complaint are confident and calm, so do not make threats or write in uppercase letters as if you were shouting.

It may feel like ranting helps you communicate how unhappy you are, but stick to the relevant details. Keep your emotions — and sarcasm — in check, or you run the risk of turning your reader against you. Get the shouting out of your system first, then sit down to write.

Be clear about what you want

State your “conditions of satisfaction,” C. William Crutcher, president of the National Customer Service Association, wrote in an email. What are you expecting from the company? Be reasonable, though. The remedy you seek should be proportionate to the problem you experienced. If you had a terrible meal at a restaurant, ask for a refund or credit to a future dinner. Don’t, however, ask for a brand new car just because the tail light went out a month after you drove it off the lot.

Be focused and think about what you want, Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and a professor emerita of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, wrote in an email. Do you want the company to improve, get compensation for your issue or simply complain?

Jennifer Thomas, a leadership consultant and co-writer of “When Sorry Isn’t Enough,” suggested treating your demand for a remedy like a salary negotiation: Don’t be the first to name your price. Wait and see what they offer.

“If it’s insufficient, then you politely tell them that it’s inadequate in your eyes,” she wrote in an email.

Be succinct

Go light on the details and don’t treat your letter like a legal brief with multiple exhibits. “You don’t need to paste the whole chat log,” Ms. Marco said.

The first paragraph of your letter or email should be no more than seven lines.

“Basically the first paragraph is the only thing that is going to get read carefully,” said John A. Goodman, vice chairman of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting in Alexandria, Va. “Once you have more than seven lines or bullet points, everybody sees gray.”

Your letter should be no more than a page, single-spaced, Ms. Thomas wrote. Be specific about dates, times, names and locations. Attach documentation if necessary or a list of other items you can provide if they’re requested. Photos are helpful.

Write a ‘complaint sandwich’

Your opening line can be something positive about how long you’ve been a customer or why you like a company’s product. It signals you are being measured, he said.

The “lean meat” of the sandwich should be your complaint, presenting the relevant details as briefly as possible. The last layer should end on a positive note such as “I really hope you can resolve this issue for me” or “I hope to continue my relationship with the company.”

Avoid these mistakes

Don’t exaggerate your history as a customer as a way to get attention. Customer service representatives can find your purchase history.

Avoid foul language. It will erode your credibility.

Don’t ask to be compensated for lost time. You may have wasted several hours on a defective product or waiting for a service, but demanding to be reimbursed for it will be seen as being unreasonable, Mr. Goodman said.

Keep track

Mr. Goodman recommended getting the name of anyone who responds (even it’s just a first name) and note any case number assigned to your complaint. If you don’t get one, ask for it. You want some way to reference your issue in the future, without explaining your issue all over again. You also want to make sure you have records of who promised what and when, so no one can pretend those conversations never happened.

Consider escalating

An email or web-based form you complete will get routed to a low-level customer care center or outside contractor, Mr. Goodman said.

To improve the chances of a response, mail or email your complaint to the company’s president or other executives. You can search online for company contacts and addresses and on the professional networking site LinkedIn, he said.

Consumerist calls this approach the Executive Email Carpet Bomb, a well-written message to the right group of corporate executives. Keep it short, polite and use it as a last resort. Even if the executive themselves doesn’t address it, they’ll likely forward it to an assistant or customer service manager who will.

Avoid complaining on social media

It may be tempting to blast a company on its Facebook page or on Twitter, but doing so will not necessarily fix your problem.

“Social media is really about shaming the company into taking action,” Ms. Yarrow wrote. “If you think the company is honorable and will help if they know the trouble they’ve caused, don’t use social media.”

If direct contact fails, post on rating sites like Yelp or Angie’s List, where other consumers will look for feedback on the company that’s wronged you, Ms. Yarrow wrote. Consider the company’s Twitter or Facebook as a last resort. Check their accounts first to make sure they actually conduct customer service there. Many companies have special accounts for support, while others just direct customers to call or email instead.

By Carole Ginsburg

  • Nov. 12, 1978

How to complain successfully

IF YOU don’t have a case a lawyer might be willing to accept on a contingency basis — taking the fee from whatever cash award may be granted — the cost of legal services may seem out of reach. Exploring alternatives to hiring a private attorney (though clearly at times, as in criminal cases, nothing less than a qualified professional will do) will be educational but time‐consuming.

Each has jurisdiction over culprits who have broken some public law, or can refer you to an agency that does. Perseverance can pay off, either in satisfaction — the target of your complaint is fined, admonished or jailed — or restitution — refund, deposit returned or. work redone. Insiders know that the process of complaint investigation itself produces many settlements, and a good information and referral expert discovered through this process should be cherished.

A note of caution: You will not be able to control the processing of your complaint when the government assumes jurisdiction, as you would if you were directing a private attorney. The investigation will be based on legal authority given by some existing public law, ordinance or statute, and your complaint will become the complaint of the investigators.

The key here is (a) who has the jurisdiction? and (b) will the right agency want to prosecute? Budget cutbacks mean that not every problem is pursued, and a case that is technically hard to prove may be judged “too expensive” to handle when an agency measures manpower against work load.

Even if you win, and the object of your complaint is found to have broken the law, usually you do not automatically get back your money. To sue for money you must initiate a court action. Here again, you must select legal assistance, and the fees in this case may be greater than the actual amount for which you can sue.

The poor theoretically have access to free legal services but, according to Sydney Spector of the Legal Aid Society, other than guaranteed criminal defense, only “one out of every 10 poor people gets the needed legal help.”

You don’t need a lawyer in Small Claims Court. Westchester’s 46 municipalities offer this simplified procedure to sue for up to $500 or $1,000, depending on where you live. Judge Robert Troup, vice president of the Magistrate’s Association, advises that litigants be prepared to clearly explain their stories, and take along whatever documents, witnesses, charts, maps and photographs they can provide. The Magistrates Association has a free Small Claims colorslide presentation for showing — write on your agency’s or group’s letterhead, care of Judge Robert Troup, 1 Town Hall Plaza, Valhalla 10595.

If the lawyer you’ve already hired is giving you headaches or worse. get in touch with the

Ninth Judicial District Grievance Committee, whose staff suggests that you:

¶Shop around for a lawyer.

¶Keep a written record of your contacts.

¶Ascertain fees in advance. For example, will you be charged for phone contacts?

¶Get a second opinion. 9Trust your instincts.

This is another in a series of Fact Sheets prepared by the Ombudsman Development Project Inc. ■

Last Updated: November 26, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow’s Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards.

There are 22 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 71,368 times.

Dealing with bad products, poor service, or rude people can be frustrating and annoying. When this happens, you may decide to make a complaint. Fortunately, you have several options for making a complaint that gets results. Whether you’re complaining to a business or your workplace, it’s important to be professional and specific about what you want.

How to complain successfully

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How to complain successfully

\u00a9 2021 wikiHow, Inc. All rights reserved. wikiHow, Inc. is the copyright holder of this image under U.S. and international copyright laws. This image is not licensed under the Creative Commons license applied to text content and some other images posted to the wikiHow website. This image may not be used by other entities without the express written consent of wikiHow, Inc.
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How to complain successfully

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How to complain successfully

\u00a9 2021 wikiHow, Inc. All rights reserved. wikiHow, Inc. is the copyright holder of this image under U.S. and international copyright laws. This image is not licensed under the Creative Commons license applied to text content and some other images posted to the wikiHow website. This image may not be used by other entities without the express written consent of wikiHow, Inc.
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Tip: While poor service or low quality products can be a big headache, you typically can’t get reimbursed for the time you wasted dealing with this issue. Asking for compensation for lost time may even result in the company ignoring your complaint.

All businesses, even the most successful ones, will have unsatisfied customers every once in a while. But most of unhappy customers actually never bother to complain. They simply leave and switch to competitors without even letting you know when and how your company failed to meet their expectations. On the bright side, statistics says that 95% of those who complain, are ready to give you a second chance, if you manage to handle their initial complaint successfully and in a timely manner. So how to do it effectively and turn every complaint into a positive customer experience to win those customers over for life?

It’s all about the attitude

The key to successfully dealing with complaints is in the right attitude towards them. As simple as that. In fact, customer complaints should be embraced and seen as unsolicited feedback which is always a valuable source of information about your business. Customers don’t complain just to be rude or upset you. They do it because they’ve experienced a problem with your products, services or the way your business operates, and they’re simply telling you about it. Why not use this customer feedback as an incredible opportunity for learning where your business could be improved? Here’s 6 tips to keep in mind whenever you get a complaining customer.

6-step strategy for handling customer complaints

1. React immediately

Make sure that everyone who complains on the phone, live chat, social media or by email gets a rapid response. Even if you cannot provide an immediate solution to their problem, you can at least let them know that their complaint is heard, taken into account and that you’re going to do your best to make things right as soon possible.

2. Stay professionally calm

No matter how angry or even rude the customer might be, you need to remain calm and listen without interrupting. While it’s the most natural reaction to get defensive when attacked, ‘winning’ a confrontation is not going to help you in any way. Let them speak and express their frustration without taking it personally and losing your cool.

3. Get the facts and details

After letting them talk, take the lead and start asking questions to get as many details as needed to really understand the situation and the problem. It is important, though, that you avoid sounding too scripted and drop the formalities. Use this opportunity to start a genuine conversation and build a trusting relationship with a customer.

4. Acknowledge the problem

If your company really made a mistake, admit it, acknowledge the problem and take responsibility for helping a customer to solve it. I believe that it also makes a perfect sense to apologize. Saying sorry doesn’t necessarily mean that you are personally taking the blame. It’s more about showing compassion and understanding of their feelings and frustration with the situation.

5. Offer a helpful solution

Now that you know all the facts and a real problem behind a customer’s complaint, it’s time to offer a helpful solution. If you can’t do that, pass the issue over to someone who can. If you are able to get things right quickly and effectively without letting them wait for ages, you’ll get a happy and, most probably, a loyal customer.

6. Thank the customer

No matter how unpleasant the situation was, when customers complain (even if they do it in a less-than-desirable way), you still need to be thankful in the end. Once the solution is provided, thank the customer for bringing the complaint to your attention and giving your business an opportunity to improve. That is also how you let them feel important and valuable.

Minimize the reasons for complaints

Knowing how and being able to resolve customer complaints successfully is no doubt essential to your business success. But what’s even more important is whether you learn from those situations and how you use that knowledge to minimize customer complaints in future. In other words, just do whatever needs to be done – improve your product, fix the process, train stuff or whatever it is. On top of that, be honest with your customers about your products or services in the first place, don’t give them false promises to avoid unrealistic expectations and disappointment.

How do you deal with customer complaints? Feel free share your success stories below.

No one likes dealing with difficult customers. But what happens when your favorite customer or even simply someone who is being anything but rude has a complaint to get off their chest? Customers of all kinds are bound to share a complaint with your business one day, so why not be prepared for how to deal with it?

Below, gain ten tips to help you deal with customer complaints – as gracefully and successfully as possible.

#1: Put Your Emotions Aside

Whether it’s a friendly lady trying to simply tell you how to do your job better – with the best of intentions – or a disgruntled customer ready to erupt in rage, the best way you can handle any customer sharing a complaint is without your personal emotions getting in the way. Calmly listen to what they are saying, then just as calmly reply and react to them with the following tips in mind.

#2: Avoid Challenging Their Complaint

It’s easy and – quite frankly – natural to want to tell a customer they are wrong in what they are saying. However, this won’t help you in your efforts to diffuse a customer from getting more upset while sharing a complaint. Instead of challenging their complaint, listen to what they are saying. And – dare I say – even thank them. Here me out.

#3: Thank Your Customer

The old saying “kill them with kindness” could not be more true in a situation with a customer complaining. But rather than smile and pretend to care, genuinely let them know you are thankful they are sharing with you their complaint or concern. For example, you can tell them right off the bat that you appreciate them taking the time to talk to you about their concern and you want to make sure you understand exactly what they are saying. This opens up the opportunity for you to further listen to them, while hopefully giving them the understanding that you want to actually hear what they have to say.

#4: Acknowledge What They Say

Listening to your customer complain may not be your ideal scenario, but try your best to really hear what they are saying. Are they upset that something took too long? Or possibly a product they purchased isn’t what they had in mind? Maybe – but hopefully not – they are upset about a specific employee they encountered while working with your business. Whatever the “real reason” it is they are complaining, acknowledge it and ensure you heard what they said.

#5: Offer Support

Support comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s simply listening to them even more, other times it means exchanging a defective item for a new one. Support should not be black and white, though. If you really listened to what they had to say, you should be able to suggest a handful of ways to support them – or even better, one firm and perfectly ideal way to support them. You have to be the judge here on what works best here – but keep in mind that support means giving the customer something in response to their complaint. One thing to note? If what you offer isn’t satisfying their expectations, don’t give up. which leads me to tip number six.

Have a customer complaint? Consider these 10 tips on how to deal with it.

#6: Be Flexible

If no resolution is available to make your customer happy or at the very least, content, then consider how else you can help them. Possibly you make it a company policy to have $10 gift cards to a local coffee shop on hand to give to upset customers (or even customers who you may see are having a bad day, did something nice for another customer, etc.). Bonus tip? Ask your local coffee shop to give these to you for free or at a reduced price as a gesture to get more people in their door. B2B marketing in local economies is always a great way to help each other out. And in a case like this, getting creative and being flexible is key.

#7: Make Sure Your Customers Hear What You Are Saying

After offering a resolution or identifying what you can – or cannot do – to accommodate any requests they may have or simply to respond to the complaint they stated, ask the customer if they have understood what you said. Make sure you do this in a non-demeaning way, but rather state your intent. Very simply, after all has been discussed, ask your customer if they have understood how you can help them or for that matter, how you are unable to do anything else to accommodate them.

#8: Offer an Apology – With Gratitude Attached

The thing about saying “I’m sorry” is that a lot of people won’t believe you – and even more importantly, you may not even mean it. Your goal is to genuinely want to end your conversation with a sincere apology and yet appreciation for your customer. Let them know you’re sorry they were inconvenienced or disappointed or upset, then also thank them for giving you the chance to work it out with them. For many customers, this sincere effort goes a long way. And for the customers who are still not satisfied, it still leaves an impression on them – but only if you really mean it.

#9: Follow Up

After you’ve said you’re sorry, showed your appreciation and overall gave them the support they were hopefully looking for, consider how else you can help support customers who complain. One way to do this is to have upper management follow up with these customers 24 to 48 hours after they have expressed their complaint. This is simply another way to show them you care, as well as it suggests you still have their complaint and concerns top of mind. You can do this in a handwritten note sent to their home address – if you have this information – or pick up the phone and call them personally. If this is part of your protocol, be sure to ask for these contact details from them so you can use them later.

#10: Move On

When all is said and done, you can’t dwell on customer complaints in order to move on and forward with your next tasks on hand. Most businesses are bound to get them every now and again since very simply, you can’t please everyone. This said, if customer complaints are a normal routine for your business, you need to dwell on them. All businesses, however, should have a plan of attack – no pun intended – to help navigate how to handle customer complaints as seamlessly, professionally and graciously as possible. In return? Customers who give you another chance and tell their friends, family, co-workers and more about the strong customer care they received from your team. This old-fashioned type of marketing never goes out of style, after all.