It’s not as easy as you think!

If you’re someone who is uneasy about complaining or simply just not very good at it, this is for you. We all deserve good service and often the only way to get it is to tell the service provider that you have found a gap – a gap between what you expected and what you received – and then find ways to bridge it.

Many people share ideas on how to complain, to get what you wanted and there are some very extreme points of view. TSM has done the research for you and combined it with our own expertise to provide this simple, practical guide.

Step 1 – Stop!
Think for a minute; is your complaint real? Can you justify how you are feeling about the service? It’s all about being reasonable and a good starting point is to be clear about what was agreed between customer and supplier; then consider good practices and ultimately think about any legal requirements.

Step 2 – Calm down!
It’s hard to think straight when you are frustrated or even angry. Taking it out on the service agent will not help much but being a good communicator will. So keep cool and get your story right. Get prepared and know what you are going to say and most importantly, have what you want put right in your mind – it’s no good to anyone if you just want to moan – be specific about the fault and what will make it better. For example, do you want a refund, an exchange, a new or better service next time and be clear about the timescales too.

Step 3 – Engage and Escalate
With so many ways to get a service these days the best rule is to complain via the same route you ordered. So in a restaurant, speak to the staff; if it was by phone, use the phone; if you used social media, follow the same route on Twitter, Facebook etc. Keep records of what you said, easy with email and social media, but with a phone call keep notes of whom you spoke to, when, what you both said or agreed. Follow up in writing that means sending a letter! Always be factual, respectful and honest – admit to anything that you have done wrong as you actually then become more believable.

Out of courtesy, start you mission with the person who served you. Very often they can simply put it right, quickly, simply without fuss. If that isn’t working, find the person with power and go to the top. First find out their name and meet them in person, look them in the eye and address them politely and personally, smile! Be calm and clear, be direct and assertive without being aggressive. And try not to feel embarrassed or apologise after all they have made a mistake haven’t they?

Step 4 – Persist and Be Thankful
It might take a while to get your point across, there will be delays and sometimes a series of people you chase but don’t feel put off. Some companies actually make the whole process difficult on purpose to reduce the numbers of complaints they have to handle. Keep trying.

When you have succeeded in what you set out to do, if you have good grace, this is remarkably powerful in changing attitudes. No one like to fail, but if we feel rewarded after making amends it encourages getting it right first time.

Top tips when using social media
•    On Twitter, use direct messages and on Facebook the private message function with the occasional use of an @badbusiness tweet – don’t forget there’s another human being at the other end and no one likes being abused
•    Be prepared to take the discussion offline and offer an email address or phone number – in fact it’s a good idea to try getting resolution by email first
•    Stay on the right side of the law. Most countries have ways in which people take action against people for defamation and libel.

We can’t guarantee this brief guide will work every time, but with trial and error you will find a way that works best for you. TSM

Simon Corden – Online Editor
[email protected]

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