It can be hard work dealing with a lot of companies when things go wrong. From endlessly holding on the phone to having your emails ignored, there’s rarely a personal touch in large organisations these days.
You often have to speak to several people to get basic things done as well, and it isn't unusual to find that your original requests have been ignored.
This can be very frustrating and it's easy to lose your temper and get very stressed out about it. Take these steps next time you have to complain though and you should find the process a whole lot easier.
Write Everything Down
The first thing to do when you contact a company regarding an issue is to keep a note of everything. Make sure you log the times of your calls and the people you speak to. It’s also a good idea to keep brief notes on what’s discussed so you can accurately refer to them later if you need to.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it will help keep you firmly in control.
If somebody has told you something important, you can immediately inform the other side who gave you this information and when they did it. Keeping notes also helps if things get serious or other parties get involved.
Using email to correspond is ideal if it's possible, as it saves you time bouncing between staff on call centres and everything you say is on record. It can also be less stressful than speaking to someone and it will give you more control.
Work Out Who You’re Dealing With
There’s nothing worse than wasting time shouting at someone who’s as powerless to put things right as you are. The first person you speak to is likely to be tied up with internal bureaucracy so even if you can convince them you’re right, they will probably have to fight an internal battle in order to help you.
If you can, try and work out how their company is structured and who you really need to deal with in order to get things done.
A Google search can often give you the contact details of senior people. If you’re not getting results, I’d even suggest contacting the Managing Director or CEO directly. Even if they don’t respond, they’re likely to pass your correspondence down the line and expect results from their staff.
In some companies the higher you go, the more chance you have of dealing with someone who can actually do something. Whoever you deal with though, don’t be afraid to give them clear, but reasonable, timeframes you expect them to work to.
Show Respect, Be Professional and Don’t Lose Your Temper
Being angry can help show how strongly you feel, and the impact an issue has on you, but losing control can often make you look stupid and you’re likely to lose all credibility.
Don’t swear, don’t say anything personal and reap the benefits of remaining cool, calculated and in control.
As your complaint progresses, you’re likely to be dealing with a range of people so show them you’re professional and that you know what you’re doing. When someone looks at the history of your complaint, you want them to immediately understand why you’re unhappy and what you’ve done to resolve it. Don’t give them any excuse to disregard you or more importantly, anything they can use against you.
Know What You Want and Have a Plan
It’s hard to get things sorted if the other person has no idea what you actually want, and it’s even worse if you don't know yourself.
If you’re rambling, you’re unlikely to win over the person you’re dealing with so make it very clear what you expect from them.
Before you contact an organisation, take time to think about what outcome you want. You should then think about the outcome you need as well, as there’s bound to be some kind of negotiation.
You should also take a moment to plan out a strategy as well in case things go wrong. It helps to have a brief idea about what you’re going to do before you start, rather than ‘improvising’ and saying something you'll later regret.
Take a Step Back
It doesn't hurt to think about your position from time to time. There’s no point demanding that a missed delivery or installation gets to you that day if it’s clearly not physically possible. It also won’t hurt to think about what you’ve been told and consider whether you still have an argument.
It’s easy get swept away and keep arguing for something you simply won’t get or even worse, something you’re not really entitled to.
In these situations, it’s very easy to be ‘loud, confident and wrong’ and you're likely to look and feel bad. You should also be open to any opportunities to be flexible and come to a reasonable agreement if possible, as this can benefit both parties.
Don’t Make Idle Threats
If some people listened to themselves complaining they would probably be very embarrassed. So many people are going to ‘go to Watchdog’ or ‘to the newspapers’ without considering whether they would even be interested, or if they are still relevant.
Most people also threaten to cancel their service but then face an embarrassing climbdown when they realise they really need it, or that they’re locked into a binding contract.
If you have a plan, you can outline realistic consequences like posting on social media or contacting a specific local publication. You can also confirm that you have the contact details of senior members of staff.
You should also make yourself aware of the terms of any agreements you have before you comment on them and be aware of any legislation that may cover you. It’s always best to name specific acts if you need to and make people aware of the consequences of breaching them. Everyone seems to be a lawyer these days, threatening people with meaningless hot air, so rise above it and know your stuff.
Think about Who Can Help You
A simple internet search can lead you to some great sources of information. I’d stick to official sources like Trading Standards and Citizens Advice, as they can usually tell you everything you need to know about where you stand.
It’s also worth checking if the company you’re dealing with is overseen by an Ombudsman or a professional body.
They can help arbitrate your dispute but there are often time limits in place before you can approach them.
You may also have to reach ‘deadlock’ where the company officially advise you they will not be addressing your complaint and will no longer deal with you. If there is another organisation involved, it can be worth requesting a ‘deadlock letter’ to show them that you are not accepting their position and aim to take it further. It also shows them you understand this procedure.
In these situations, it’s also a good idea to give them a clear timeframe and deadline that you expect them to work to. You can then make it clear that you will consider their position a refusal if they have not responded by that set date.
Use Social Media
Posting a complaint, or a request, on a company’s social media page makes it very public and gives them a huge reason to resolve it.
It’s likely to be seen by different people within that organisation as well as their customers.
Like before, you need to be professional and show other people you have a genuine issue. It’s also unlikely to help you if you write anything negative or derogatory about the company at this stage, as they’re unlikely to be motivated to help if you’ve already damaged their reputation.
Be Honest and Don’t Be Vindictive
I’d really like to say that dishonest people don’t get anywhere while complaining, but it’s sadly not the case. They are often quite transparent though and will soon be noticed. Do you really want people to view you this way or even worse, come across them later in life?
Morality aside, being honest will keep your argument accurate and concise as you’ll have to think less if you just keep to the facts.
You should also avoid being vindictive. Just because someone isn't doing exactly what you want is no reason to embellish a situation, or go out of your way to extract some kind of ‘revenge’. That’s not saying that you should’t make a complain if an individual has been unprofessional, it’s just a reminder that this is a great way to make it less personal and less stressful.
Log a Subject Access Request
If you’re still stuck, remember that under the Data Protection Act you’re entitled to see all the information a company holds about you. There’s usually a small fee but this can often be very helpful, and even reveal unprofessional comments from staff that the company probably won't want people to see.
I hope this all helps and that you quickly get the results you want next time things go wrong.