Be polite and informed : Complain the right way to get results | Sunday Observer

Be polite and informed : Complain the right way to get results

It is an old business adage slightly modified. Twenty percent of the customers 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. The other 80 percent just seem to end up shouting in frustration down the phone.

My family and my friends believe I belong to group one. My track record proves it. So, what is it that I do that the second group doesn’t?

Complain effectively

Look at this scenario. Your blender does not blend. Your vacation was spoilt by an error made by the booking clerk. Or the cabinet you bought is not as sturdy as you believed.

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 knowledge about how to complain in the right way. Here’s how.

Three Rules

There are three simple rules of effective complaining:

(1) Only make an informed complaint.

(2) Control your anger.

(3) Make only a few demands.

Complaining to a company, your city fathers, or whomever, is essentially a debate and you’ll fail in your argument if you’re not properly informed. When the idea of complaining pops into your mind the first time, it’s generally an emotional response. Maybe, you’ve just been denied a warranty-promised repair for your computer because the manufacturer insists the problem is a result of user damage when you believe it isn’t.

Informed complaint

You need to do two things to make an informed complaint.

(1) Play devil’s advocate and

(2) Research similar complaints made in the past.

What you really need to do is debate with yourself. Think about how the other party might argue against your complaint and act like they’re right. Come up with the best arguments you have against theirs as to why they should help you.


Access the internet and search for terms that describe the situation you’re in or the problem you’re having. Or, you may check with your circle of friends.

You gain an advantage if you can discover a precedent that points to you being in the right.

If a person’s hard drive failed a day after the warranty expired and the manufacturer replaced it, you can probably convince the seller to help you out due to the unfortunate circumstances.

Control your anger

When you want to complain, generally the emotion attached to that complaint is anger. Though anger is a powerful motivator, it’s useless in an argument. Your anger may prevent you, as well as the other party, from seeing logic and reason.

Even if you are angry, try to be cheerful. This may be hard to do, but there is no alternative. Be nice to the customer support team and they will reciprocate.

Only few demands

You shouldn’t be vague about what you want. Make only a few demands, preferably one. If you feel like you’re reaching a dead-end, move forward and ask customer support what they would do if they were in your position. You can also ask what kind of resolution they think is fair, how they think this problem can best be solved.

My three-decade experience in this field has shown me that if you are polite and informed, you can get a reasonable solution by negotiating with customer support.

You may even state your own resolution during your discussions. It’s in order to say “this is what I’d like to see happen,” followed by an outline of your ideal resolution in a concise and polite fashion.

What’s not in order is to demand that you get this or that with an implied “or else.” Demands kill a negotiation and make you an unreasonable, hostile person.

When you make a demand, the other party will feel they’ve heard everything they need to hear. They know you don’t believe in compromises and accordingly they will act by their own rules. If you’re willing to discuss the situation politely, you’re more likely to get what you want.

Sometimes complaining to customer support might get you nowhere. Then there is no strategy left other than to take your complaint elsewhere. Rather than giving up at that stage, you can contact the head of the division or company, first by correspondence.

If you do not hear from them within a reasonable period of time, see them in person.

Keep track

Get the name of anyone who responds, 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. Also, make sure you have records of who promised what and when, so no one can pretend those conversations never happened.

Consumer Affairs Authority

If everything fails, you can complain to Consumer Affairs Authority who assists the aggrieved consumers to settle their problems.

According to them, most of the matters under dispute have been settled either through direct written communication or through discussion and verbal negotiation with the relevant parties to the dispute.

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. If you think the company is honourable and will help if they know the trouble they’ve caused, don’t use social media.

During my career in the corporate sector, we had to face many dissatisfied customers. We did the maximum we could.

I can honestly tell you, no decent supplier or service provider wants to make a customer unhappy. The hardest part of a customer relations officer’s job is saying “no” to customers when she/he really wants to help them.