How To Make an Effective Complaint

An effective complaint gets results. Those results should ultimately please the complainant and therefore draw a line under the issue allowing all parties to move on, some may be wounded but will move on nevertheless.

1. Get things in perspective.

Sometimes things we want to complain about are just us having a bad day.

Are you annoyed with yourself for dealing with these people/companies or have they acted unfairly and un-reasonably? Take a step back ask your friends opinion, someone who can add logic and calm you down. (my friends who read this will most probably choke on their tea reading this. I vent to those closest to me, but when it comes to pitching my complaint to the receiver I do take my own advice following the steps in this post).

If you’re not within your rights then your time spent on this is not going to be productive, you will get cross and probably look a prize prat.

2. Be confident to ask for the outcome you want.

Before even beginning a complaint you should always ask yourself, what will resolve this? is it a refund , compensation (ie: for time spent on resolving the issues, phone charges, travel expenses incurred) or a mixture of both of these. You may simply be looking for an apology.

Your complaint is more likely to be resolved to your satisfaction in the first instance if you are aware of, and articulate your desired outcome. All to often when raising a concern, you can find you go round and round in circles but this is because we are not clear on what outcome we desire.

3. Stay calm, pleasant but firm

Don’t take things personally and don’t lower yourself to directing a complaint towards a particular person. The person represents a company and more often than not will be acting within that company’s procedures.

Customer service staff feel abused by shouters and as it 99.9% of the time is not that individuals fault. I don’t feel there is any gain to be had by a) getting so het up yourself b) ruining somebody else’s day. STAY CALM at the end of the day complaining can often turn into negotiation, and people always are more amiable in negotiation when they are in a good mood.

4. Familiarise yourself with their complaints procedure,

and be sure to follow it. In my personal experience I have found I’m pretty effective with complaints when I explain I know their complaints procedure and if we are unable to resolve at this stage then I will be moving to the next stage. Please don’t think I’m argumentative, but as per my previous point, I try to be firm and clearly state I know how to handle my concern in the correct manner and within their company guidelines.

5. Putting it  in writing.


effective complaint

If a complaint in writing is required (normally Stage 2 of the complaints procedure) it is usually because a phone call or meeting in person hasn’t resulted in you getting the resolve you initially set out to get from this.*

*this is an important point, always stick to and remain focused on your outcome. Don’t move the goalposts this is unfair on the person or company handling your complaint and weakens your argument as you start to appear greedy or argumentative.

If you need support putting your concern into writing I’ve found the following reference invaluable;

  1.  Consumer Rights UK Tel: 03454 04 05 06. I have phoned a couple of times and they have always been very helpful and given fantastic advice, that worked!
  2. Trading Standards is a great place to start but can often be a little overwhelming.

If you’re needing to write a complaints letter, I used these templates

As much as you may want to please remove emotions and stay factual, anything else will end up in upset, arguments and again is not productive. Stay focused and remember, don’t take things personally. Stick to facts, personalities or he said she said gets nobody anywhere.

Sometimes including a timeline of events is a fantastic way to demonstrate a point, particularly if the complaint is based around timekeeping or dates.

Once again, let them know you are following their complaints procedure and at what stage you see the current letter being at, and what you see the next stage being.

6. Learn to negotiate

Negotiating and compromise often means being prepared to meet in the middle.

TOP TIP: In order to get what you truly want revisit the above Step 2. Increase your desired outcome that way if they accept you’ve got more than you wanted, or if they come to a compromise you should be near what you wanted in the first place and be able to settle your differences. Win Win for you.


Finally, Don’t be greedy and know when to stop. There is a time to walk away you don’t want to appear argumentative.
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