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EIGHT tips on how to complain – and get results

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
May 29, 2015

undefined Robin Bowman

Negotiating your way through the customer services departments of big companies can be a form of self-torture, unless you arm yourself with a little knowledge and a few skills.

Of course, registering your complaint with A Spokesman Said and using social media platforms is one of the quickest ways to get results. 

But, for when you feel like going solo and having a crack at bringing a problem to a successful conclusion by yourself, you need the right tools.

So, here's an EIGHT-point checklist to run through before you begin.

1)  What do you want?  Before you even pick up the phone or start tapping out an email, consider what it is you want the company to do. 

That might not be as simple as it sounds. 

As with any negotiations, you have to give the other party room for manoeuvre – that means that what you are asking them to do needs to be reasonable and proportionate to what’s gone wrong.  

If your package is late being delivered, asking for a week in the Bahamas isn’t going to get you very far. What’s more, if you over-egg matters, you just won’t be taken seriously.

So, what do you want and is it reasonable? After that, consider what you would actually settle for. 

2)  Know the facts.  You’ll be making your points from a position of strength if you understand terms and conditions and whether these have been breached. If you can point to the company’s advertised promise, this will help you win a debate. 

But, even if T&Cs have not been broken, it’s often worth making your case forcefully if you think you’re in the right.  Many big companies will see the weight of a sound argument and, if you are persistent and reasonable, they may use discretion to try and retain a happy customer.

3)  Get names. Always try and create a point of contact and come back to this person repeatedly, if possible. It isn’t always easy to do this, but it’s certainly a big plus if you can. 

It has a number of advantages, one of which is that you will not have to explain the problem again each time you make contact. Another is that you can counter the common tactic of being passed around endlessly to different people and departments, which can eventually wear out even the most determined consumer justice seeker.

4)  Do some research.  If you do even a small amount of research into your rights as a consumer, it will go a long way. Most of the time it will come down to either what is in the small print, or consumer law. 

The most useful area here is the Sale of Goods Act 1979, amended in 2013. And this, in a nutshell, is all about what is reasonable never mind, for example, that a warranty is a week out of date.

Other aspects of this act might also be helpful. For example, it’s common, if you have a problem with a product, for some stores to insist you need to take it up first with the manufacturer, and the manufacturer to insist the store must sort it out.  If you know that the law says it’s the store’s responsibility, then you are at an advantage right away.

5)  Be organised.  Keeping a record of dates and details of conversations is vital right form the start. You never know if a seemingly straightforward complaint will turn into a nightmare.

Your credibility will be given a massive boost if you can quote times, dates and then content of conversations. 

Being organised also means not taking anything for granted. If someone says they will call you back, don’t take it at face value – get a name and ask within what time frame they will call, where are they based and any other information that ties them down. Then make a note of it.

6)  Be polite.  If you get angry, even if you keep your language moderate, you will give the person on the other end a great excuse to distance themselves from the purpose of your call.

You can be forceful and register the degree of your annoyance or outrage, but don’t raise your voice to an unreasonable level or ever use offensive language.  In fact, it’s a good idea to sympathise with the person you’re speaking to, explaining that you know they don’t make the rules and so on, but…. This way it’s clear your ire is not directed at them personally. They will invariably be more wiling to try and sort out your problem if they don't feel personally attacked.

7)  Don’t be fobbed off.  Anyone who has ever talked to a mobile phone company’s ‘retention team’ will know that some customer service people are pretty good at what they do. They can be persuasive, apparently sympathetic and generally talk to you as a human being.  

That’s all great, but it means nothing unless the root of your problem is being addressed and action being taken. The key is to ask yourself, just before you put the phone down, or accept an explanation in an email, ‘What is actually being done here? What action is being taken?’

8) Get a voice!  And, of course, if you feel you’re getting nowhere with your reasonable, informed and organised approach, it’s time register with A Spokesman Said. The power of social media can so often cut out a lot of the angst and hassle of going it alone.


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