At East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau in west-central Scotland, we are here to help. If you live or work in the East Dunbartonshire area, we can give you personalised advice on where and how to complain. Please contact us here, chat online or call us on 0141 775 3220. If you reside outside East Dunbartonshire, please contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for assistance. Find them here.
Complaining is a part of life. but knowing how to complain is an important skill to learn. Read on to find out how to complain effectively.
Our top tips
- Make it swift
Make the complaint as soon as possible so the details are fresh in your memory. If you need to escalate again, do this as quickly as you can and explain why you aren’t happy with the results so far.
Check that you are speaking to the right person in the right department. We recommend you try to complain to the head of the department that you have a problem with.
- Tell them you are complaining
Make sure you explain straight away that you are making a complaint. You could start the conversation with ‘I’m sorry to bother you but . . .’ or ‘Excuse me, I wonder if you could help me?’ If you are writing a letter an email, start it with ‘I am writing to let you know about an experience I had that I was unhappy with.’ Or, ‘I am writing to tell you about an issue I have with a product I purchased from you.’
- Put it in writing
Sometimes, it is easier to complain in writing. It means that you have time to take stock of the situation. It means you have time to calm down after an event that you are unhappy with. And you get to write down your complaint with the time to think about it. Putting it in writing also means you have the time to recall all of the details etc. Write ‘complaint’ at the top of your letter or email.
- Be brief and clear
Ensure you cover all relevant points and don’t put in too much detail. You might feel a lengthy letter or email is required, but, generally, just the details are needed.
Numbered lists or headings work well, so what you want to say is clear.
Ensure you include your contact details – then, if more information is required, the person dealing with the complaint can get in touch.
- Provide evidence
If you have any evidence, like receipts etc., make sure you have them handy or send them with your letter/email. But only send or provide documents that will are relevant to your complaint.
Making copies before you send any relevant documents in the post is a good idea.
If you call, keep notes so you can refer to them later. Make sure you get the name of the person you speak to.
- Check it through
Before you send it, a fresh set of eyes on your complaint is always a good idea. Get a friend or a family member to read it through to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
- Be clear
Ensure you are clear about the issue and what you want as a resolution. But make sure you are being realistic with your request.
- Always be polite
Make sure you remain polite and calm. Being aggressive won’t get you a resolution and may mean your complaint is ignored.
- Be patient
It can take time for your complaint to be dealt with – be realistic with the timescale you expect a response by. But do chase it up if you haven’t heard within a reasonable amount of time.
- Be prepared
Before making your complaint, make sure you have all the relevant information, including dates, times, and any other details that may be important. This will help you make your case more effectively and increase your chances of getting a positive outcome.
- Be persistent (but not pushy)
It’s important to be persistent. Don’t give up if you don’t get the resolution you’re looking for. Keep following up with the person you spoke with and escalate the complaint if necessary.
The importance of being respectful
When it comes to knowing how to complain, it’s important to remember that the person on the other end of the line is just that – a person. They deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, even if you’re frustrated or angry with them. Being rude or aggressive will only make the situation worse and decrease your chances of getting a resolution to the problem.
It’s also important to remember that the person you’re dealing with is probably not directly responsible for the issue you’re experiencing. They are simply the messenger, and taking out your frustration on them won’t do anyone any good. Instead, take a deep breath and approach the situation calmly and respectfully. This will increase your chances of getting a positive outcome and ensure that everyone involved feels heard and respected.
Another important aspect of being respectful is to listen carefully to the other person’s perspective. They may have insights or information you’re unaware of, and being open to their input can help you come to a mutually beneficial solution. Even if you don’t agree with their perspective, taking the time to listen and understand can go a long way in resolving the issue.
Dos of complaining
When it comes to how to complain, there are a few dos that can help ensure that your voice is heard, and your concerns are addressed. One of the most important dos is to choose the right channel for your complaint. Depending on the situation, this could be a phone call, email, or in-person conversation. Choose the most appropriate channel for the issue you’re experiencing and that you’re most comfortable with.
Another important do is to be specific about the issue you’re experiencing. Provide as much detail as possible, including dates, times, and relevant information about the product or service. This will help the person you’re speaking with understand the problem and come up with an appropriate solution.
It’s also important to be clear about what you want as a resolution to the issue. Do you want a refund, a replacement product, or simply an apology? Being specific about your desired outcome will help the person you’re speaking with understand what you’re looking for and work towards a mutually beneficial solution.
Don’ts of complaining
Just as there are dos of complaining, there are also a few don’ts that can decrease your chances of getting a positive outcome. One of the biggest don’ts is to make threats or ultimatums. Saying things like “I’ll never shop here again” or “I’m going to leave a bad review” won’t help the situation and can actually make it worse. Instead, focus on the issue at hand and work towards a positive resolution.
Another don’t is to be vague or unclear about the issue you’re experiencing. Saying things like “this product is terrible” or “the service was terrible” doesn’t provide enough detail for the person you’re speaking with to understand the issue and come up with a solution. Instead, be specific and provide as much detail as possible.
Finally, it’s important not to be aggressive or abusive towards the person you’re speaking with. This can make the situation uncomfortable for everyone involved and decrease your chances of getting a positive outcome. Remember to be respectful and kind, even if you’re frustrated with the situation.
Even with the best intentions, people make a few common mistakes when complaining. One of the biggest mistakes is not giving the person you’re speaking with enough time to respond. It’s important to give them the opportunity to understand the issue and come up with a solution before jumping in with your own ideas.
Another common mistake is not following up on the complaint. If you don’t hear back from the person you spoke with or don’t get the resolution you were looking for, follow up with them to see if there’s anything else that can be done.
Finally, it’s important not to let your emotions get the best of you. While it’s understandable to be frustrated or angry when experiencing poor service or a faulty product, letting your emotions take over can decrease your chances of getting a positive outcome. Take a deep breath and approach the situation calmly and respectfully.
The psychology of complaining
Understanding the psychology of complaining can help you make your voice heard in a more effective way. One key aspect of this is framing your complaint in a positive way. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the situation, focus on what you would like to see happen to resolve the issue.
Another important aspect of the psychology of complaining is understanding the other person’s perspective. They may have different priorities or information than you do, and taking the time to understand their perspective can help you come up with a mutually beneficial solution.
Finally, it’s important to remember that complaining can be positive. By providing feedback to companies and service providers, you’re helping them improve their products and services for everyone. So don’t be afraid to make your voice heard – just make sure you do it in a respectful and effective way.
When to escalate a complaint
Knowing when to escalate a complaint can be challenging, but there are a few signs to look out for. If you’ve followed up multiple times and still haven’t got a resolution, or if you’re experiencing ongoing issues with a product or service, it may be time to escalate the complaint. Or maybe the response you have had is not satisfactory.
You should first escalate your complaint to the highest point within the company. For example, if you have been speaking with the team leader, the next step would be to talk to the head of the department. If you have gone as high as you can within the company, your next step is the relevant ombudsman. Or contact us to help with your complaint.
When escalating a complaint, it’s important to be clear about your concerns and what you’re looking for as a resolution. This will help ensure that the person you’re speaking with understands the issue and can work towards a positive outcome.
How to make complaining work for you
Complaining can be an effective way to get the results you want, but it’s important to do it in a respectful and effective way. Choosing the right channel, being specific about the issue you’re experiencing, and staying calm and focused can increase your chances of getting a positive outcome.
Remember to be respectful and kind, even in the face of frustration or anger, and to listen carefully to the other person’s perspective. With a little bit of patience and persistence, you can make your voice heard and get the results you want. So, the next time you’re experiencing poor service or a faulty product, don’t be afraid to speak up – just make sure you do it in a way that will get you the results you’re looking for.Contact us