Complaining

The fact that there’s a ‘Grumpy old man’ category on my blog should be a clue that from time to time I may be prone to complaining. Judging by a recent example from my dad (he was complaining to Tiscali who were being particularly incompetent at canceling his account), I think I must have inherited it.

I’ve had a reasonable success rate resolving complaints so, after spotting @Susan_Phillips_ was having trouble with AOL, I thought I’d post a few tips:

  • Don’t get angry, particularly at any individual. It’s not nice and it won’t help.
  • Keep notes. It will probably take a little while to resolve a complaint, so keep track of what happened and who you’ve spoken to.
  • Write. It’s unlikely anyone in a call centre will be able to help you and, if there is, you’re even less likely to get through to them! It’s also much harder to ignore a written complaint when it arrives recorded delivery.
  • Get advice. For example, Hampshire has a consumer advice page and Consumer Direct has more advice and template letters.

It might take a bit of persistence to get anywhere, but it’s usually worth it. I tend to write to the customer service manager but my dad had to go to the managing director to sort out his problem with Tiscali, and you should too if no one else is helping. Just make sure your complaint is reasonable and clearly state what the company needs to do to resolve it.

Obviously not every company will do the right thing, but they never will if you don’t give them the chance. For example, O2 did cancel my contract and give me a refund when I had problems with them, so I would consider going back (still tempted to get a Palm Pre). On the other hand phones 4u won’t be seeing my money again, and Ikea can keep their meatballs!

Do you have any tips or success stories?

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2 thoughts on “Complaining

  1. I would add one more thought: know when to give up :) In my experience, it’s easy to get drawn into a debate (to put it mildly) with consumer-facing companies when they screw up. Sometimes it works and as you say, you can get what you want by remaining calm and being sensible.

    But I think enough folks don’t give up soon enough. There are two ways to punish companies:

    1. Nag them and nag them till they solve the problem.
    2. Take your business elsewhere.

    Increasingly, I’ve become a fan of number 2. Companies that screw up and have a bad attitude towards their customers tend to do it again and again. I find it better for my blood pressure, and certainly a more productive use of my time, to sometimes cut the ties and move on. Can cost a little extra, but it’s often offset by the fact that I get some of life back :)

    Having said that, I would also say:

    1. Spent as much money as possible on a credit card – you get better protection than most other methods.
    2. Keep your reciepts.

  2. Good point about knowing when to give up, although it obviously depends on the circumstances. If a company is simultaneously charging your credit card when they shouldn’t (using a credit card can be a good thing, but never set up repeating payments on it!!) and threatening to take you to court for owing them money, I wouldn’t give up so easily!

    I’ve always been a fan of taking my business where it’s valued so there are quite a few companies wasting there time trying to sell me things! I also like the buy with confidence scheme for avoiding companies that mess up in the first place… http://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/

    Mind you, if you don’t generally suffer from high blood pressure, there is a certain element of entertainment to be had by not letting people off the hook too easily. For example, while I didn’t bother trying to get any money back myself, I did enjoy sending trading standards to investigate one company who had clearly never heard of any of the laws protecting consumers. Minimal use of my time; maximum enjoyment!

    I’m not sure I would go to such lengths, but also I’m enjoying following Stewart’s attempts to get sensible answers from banks on their shambolic internet security… http://sxatech.blogspot.com/2010/02/customer-service-contacting-banks-via.html

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