10 Things to Remember when You Complain

This article does hit close to home. I’ve both been on the receiving end of complaints and I’ve made a fair few as well. Complaints come in two forms: The complaint that’s well-written and makes some good points, and the complaint that is nothing but foul language and makes you — as the reader or recipient — want to throw it away and pretend it didn’t happen. I hope that the following 10 things will make you think before you write that complaint but, if valid, make that complaint work better for you.

10 Things to Remember when You Complain

Don’t Complain when You’re Angry

This seems to be the classic problem when people complain. They will call you or write to you when they are at their most upset and not thinking clearly. I’ve done it myself and I did regret doing so. The thing to do is to calm down and write it when you are in a calmer state of mind — even if that means the next day.

There is a Human at the Other End

Always remember that, no matter your complaint, there’s a human being at the receiving end. While dealing with customer service, for instance, some people seem to forget that they are talking to someone who may or may not be well-paid or well-treated by the company or who has to listen to these complaints and there’s nothing he or she can do about them. But assuming that the person who receives your complaint is empowered to help you, it’s imperative that you make them care about the problem. I will always try to get them interested in my complaint and give them a reason to help me. I believe the saying is “you get more bees with honey than you do with a stick.”

Be Specific

No one can begin to try and help you if they don’t understand what it is you’re complaining about. The more vague the complaint, the less likely the problem at its core will ever be solved. I don’t think anyone will (or can) help you if you make a directionless complaint like, “Yeah, you did something the other day that I didn’t like; please do something about it!” If you have an idea in mind about how the problem can be remedied, offer it constructively when making the complaint. Be specific.

Give Full Information

There are some companies out there who will fob you off with a “sorry, not our fault” letter if you don’t give them full and complete information. Much like being specific, giving full information often really helps your complaint. If you can tell the company the name, make, and model number of the item you’re complaining about, they will usually be willing to help you a little bit more — though I think this may be purely because you’ve proven that you’re not just some idiot who simply doesn’t like the product.

Show Proof of Your Claims

This is something that I’ve had to do on occasion because I’ve had companies outright lie to me. Not just little white lies, but full-on “nope, that wasn’t us” denials. I now take pictures of pretty much everything and keep them in case I need to use them. I agree that it’s sad that I have to find ways of getting proof for my own peace of mind, however, I really do advise that you do this. It’s surprising how often a company will change its tune when you say “I have geotagged photographs proving X,Y, or Z.”

Strong Words are Okay; Vulgarity is Not

This goes back to points one and two. If I’m in the position of having to listen to you rant on about how my company is a disgrace, I will, but the second you swear at me, I will stop listening to you and say, “OK, Sir/Madam, I will listen to your complaint and I will try and deal with it for you, but if you continue to swear at me, I will terminate the call.” In short, I am paid to listen to you rant about product or service failures on behalf of my company, but crossing the line into vulgarity is an affront that I’ll take more personally. I have only had to terminate a call once and, admittedly, it was by accident — but it happened at the right time.

Don’t Exaggerate

If someone or something hasn’t turned up and you are calling to complain about it, do not exaggerate about the length of time it’s taken. My previous points also make another appearance here. If you exaggerate about something and you are caught out by the company or person in question, then you have just lost the battle. Why? Well, for all they know, you’ve probably exaggerated about other things and, therefore, your words mean nothing.

Always Tell the Truth

This is an additional point to the one directly above, but it’s completely relevant to stay as a point on its own. If I found out, as a freelancer, that a client had lied to me or was still not telling me the whole truth, I would end the contract with them there and then. I do not and will not work with liars. End of story.

Keep It Short

If you are complaining on the phone, remember that, nine times out of 10, the operator will have to type out everything as you say it. So keep it short and to the point. The same goes for a written complaint. The person at the other end has to read and understand what you’re complaining about. If you ramble in your letter or on the phone, you may forget half of the points that you want to bring up — or the points that you are trying to make won’t be written down or properly identified.

Keep a Copy of Everything

If you are complaining via Twitter, keep a screen shot and/or print out of how the company replies. Do the same with emails, letters, and phone calls if at all possible. This is you gathering proof if you should have to take the company to court for whatever it has or hasn’t done to — or for — you. The more proof you have, the better.

Do you have any personal rules of thumb either as the one making a complaint or the one dealing with a complaint? Share them with us in the comments below, please! And if you do use this space for complaining, please keep the above in mind and make it constructive.

Article Written by

John “Scotsman” McKinlay is a 25-year-old autistic living in Glasgow, Scotland. He has been an online presence since 1998, but has only recently found that his voice and writing skills could bring him into the world of blogging and podcasting -- with a bit of YouTube on the side. He joined the ranks of LockerGnome back in March of 2012 and has been warmly received both by the LockerGnome staff and by you lovely ladies and gentlemen of the LockerGnome audience.

  • Luke Woods

    Very well written, thank you for pointing out the common sense that EVERYONE has seemed to have forgotten.

    • David

      Including you! You seem to have forgotten to not be rude, and to show specifics! Please don’t be a jerk and try to show yourself as superior to others! it slows down the positive feedback!

  • Blaynos

    This is a very good article, but I want to post a piece of advice: People don’t care. Really, if you receive negative feedback, most people don’t even pay attention to the feedback. an important part of being a person who receives the feedback is that look at feedback thoughtfully, and don’t just ignore it! If you receive negative feedback, you’re receiving it for a reason so pay attention!

    Very good article, well written! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=681740113 Ronald Gerard

    Article has been listed a few separate times; ALWAYS A nice . to have on hand tho ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/RanjithTOG Ranjith Gunarathne

    One other point is ‘one complaint at a time, or per paragraph’…

  • David Kaplan

    I always tell the operator, “just to let you know, I am also recording this call”
    It is amazing to see this difference in attitude when they talk to me (and I do keep the recordings)