You know I’m all for personal growth, and not hanging onto the past or past regrets, but I have to tell you that I recently read a great story, entitled ‘Ten top tips for nailing complaining’ on the BBC website. I am not one for whingeing. I am one for just getting on with it, but in life there are times when we are not treated fairly and we need to voice our disappointment and ask for justice. Maybe you have bought food, only to find it is off or inedible, or you have booked a hotel room and discovered you have not been given what you requested. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and ask to be compensated. But how do you complain effectively? How do you make the process efficient and as painless as possible for you and the person hearing the complaint? I’m going to look at what the BBC recommends.
1. Be clear on what your complaint is
The BBC article said that before you pick up the phone or start drafting an email to the company, be clear about what your complaint is. Write down your issues in dot points so you can articulate your grievance when the hold music stops and you actually get to speak to someone. If you don’t know what your point is, they certainly won’t! This is great advice. Don’t just say that you are unhappy or dissatisfied. You need to be able to say exactly what is wrong – for example you were promised two beds in the hotel room, but there is only one, or the food smelt and was slimy. I would also say take some photos and document your grievance so you have proof.
2. Know what you want
As well as being clear about why you are complaining, think about what solution would be acceptable to you. Why complain if there’s nothing that can be done to set it right and you won’t accept compensation? Perhaps you just want the offender to do better next time or you just want to vent. Again, know why you are complaining and what you want. Do you want a refund? A free meal? An apology?
3. Don’t get angry
To complain effectively the BBC says you need to choose the right time. I agree. If something has gone wrong and you are phenomenally angry, I’d say wait until you cool down. Complain when you are ready to be rational as opposed to hysterical. Wait until you are sufficiently cool-headed to write down what went wrong and what you want as compensation, and don’t forget to take those photos. Alternatively do not delay complaining for too long. Do not let your anger build up and up until you are ready to explode. The BBC warns that the moment you lose your temper you’ve lost the battle. Take deep breaths, stay calm and stay rational. Ranting and raving and being totally crazy won’t get you anywhere.
4. Never make it personal
I am not a huge sporting buff, but I love the footy advice, ‘Play the ball, not the man’. That means do not attack or insult the person on the end of the phone or at the counter. It’s probably not their fault. Make it clear you’re not annoyed and frustrated with them personally, but with the company and the service or product you’ve received. Try to be sympathetic. How would you like to be in their shoes?
5. Be decent
If keeping calm is step one, being polite and sincere is your prime aim, according to the BBC. And it’s ultimately in your best interest to treat this staff member decently. A well-timed human plea, with a little bit of good humour, might just motivate the person to sort it out for you. Keep the sarcasm and the nasty comments to yourself. They won’t help!
6. Ask to speak to the boss
The BBC says that if you feel like you’re not getting through to the person you’re dealing with ask to speak to another member of staff or even the manager. Their colleague might see it differently and provide a more satisfactory response. Whenever you feel like you’re hitting a wall, ask to deal with someone new.
8. Write to head office
If you’re not getting anywhere with customer services, it’s time to go to the top. Look up the company or organisation online and see who the managers are. Try writing a complaint letter, marking it private and confidential, and sending it via registered post to each director listed on the company website. Or if you don’t want to send a letter, search for the email addresses of the company directors or managers. They may not respond personally but hopefully they will send the issue back to customer service, and ask for it to be satisfactorily resolved.
9. Know your rights
There are federal and state laws in Australia protecting the rights of customers. Be aware that states also have their own authorities.
10. Check if your guarantee or insurance policy offers a helpline
Some house and car insurance policies will offer a free legal helpline where you can get advice on your rights and how to pursue a complaint. If you have this benefit, and you find yourself involved in a consumer dispute, pick up the phone for some free, expert advice. Also sometimes the company that sold the product will have an in-house helpline that may be able to fix your complaint. Investigate this possibility.
There are times in life when we need to stand up for yourself, so if you need to complain, then for goodness sake, complain properly!
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.