HOWTO: Complain

Every so often, the plane doesn’t leave on time, a wrong part gets shipped or a bank teller sniggers at your hat. If you’re disappointed and want to tell the company, these tips will help your complaint see real results.

• Know your contractual obligations.
• When possible, complain on the spot.
• Stick to concise, relevant details.
• Written complaints generate more results than phone calls.
• Note misbehaving employees by name.
• State specifically how you want to be compensated.
• Be polite.
• Keep it under one page.

Tips on drafting your letter, and more, after the jump…

A well-written complaint letter should state your

1) Purpose.
2) Reasons.
3) The importance.
4) Request
and finally
5) Ask for a written reply.

Remember, this a chance to explain what went wrong and possibly receive compensation, not to come to terms with your fear of father figures.

The higher you lob your complaint, the greater its chance for results. See our post on obtaining Executive Level Customer Service.

If the company comes back with a counter-offer, be prepared to accept or negotiate. Completely intractable is not a good look.

What are your complaint tips?

More: Tips for Successful Complaining. See especially their section on following up when you don’t see results.


Edit Your Comment

  1. The_Truth says:

    You skipped the
    “Knife everybody at the customer service desk while screaming about the overpriced apartments in New York City.”

  2. Marcus says:

    My tips:

    1) If you are talking to someone, whether in person or on the phone, unless your beef is –truly– with them, keep them comfortable. Take care to ensure that the CSR knows that you’re aware your problem is not their fault. This comes from experience, trust me. When I worked the Best Buy return desk, I was much more inclined to go out of my way and find some way to help someone if they expressed knowledge that their problem was with the same person I had a problem with: my employer.

    2) Make idle chatter. There is a lot of downtime in your typical service call: pulling up account info, etc. Ask them how their day is going. Ask what time it is there (asking where the call center is can be really creepy.) Ask them if they caught so and so (I had a 10 minute conversation with a CSR about the World Cup final right before I got a free upgrade that got me the Fox Soccer Channel.)

    2) If you can tell that the CSR is displeased with their job (read: they’re breathing,) then use that against their company. Express bewilderment at the company’s tyrannical policies. Say things like “I know it sucks to deal with difficult customers,” and “I know that you might not be allowed to do x, but do you think there is someone you can talk to?”

    3) Tell your CSR how much better they are than anyone else that you’ve spoken to–and then, back it up and give them praise when you speak to their superior. If you’re trying to get them to hook you up, the least you can do is hook them up too.

    4) Going to the “cancel service” section of a phone system is usually a gold mine. Ask immediately to speak to a superior “I’m sure you’re a very nice person, and I’m very upset and don’t want to take it out on you” is a great phrase. Once you are within this department, you’re in the nexus of deal-making power. These are the people who are /trained/ in retention–which at most companies still means “discount the service until they stay.” I talked my way into dirt cheap 5 meg broadband and a free upgrade to Dish HD Gold with this section of people. If you’re under contract, say you’d rather buy it out than stay under your current agreement–they almost always comp something in at that point.

    5) Key Phrases:
    THE BIG ONE: “Listen, I know this isn’t your fault, so I dont mean to take it out on you. I’m sure you can appreciate my frustration.”

    “You seem like a really nice person, so I want you to know that I’m not trying to be rude to you. I hope I don’t come off that way.”
    Expressing embarassment that the company has managed to goad you to this level of aggravation seems to usually get a great response.

    Overall–even though you might be tempted, just dont be rude unless they’re rude first. I would suggest that as soon as someone is rude, you hang up, call back, and using the CSR’s name which you wrote down at the beginning of the call (right?) ask to speak to a superior. If they were –really– rude, sell them out. If not, make reference to a “unfriendly” CSR.

    Well, that was more of an article in-and-of itself than a comment, but you asked for tips, so there they are.


  3. Billifer says:

    Marcus — Great advice! Sounds like you’ve had ample experience (on both sides of the phone?) with CSR complaints.

  4. Aph says:

    Thems the rules boys. Thems the rules.

  5. sweetlyvicious says:

    Thanks Marcus, I’ve printed out your comment for future reference :)