10 Tips for Top Complaining

Last Updated Apr 22, 2010 4:48 AM EDT

The bad news is customer service in the UK is still pretty bad. The good news is UK customers are more inclined to complain about it.

Figures out from the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service show three quarters of Brits are prepared to complain when encountering shoddy products or services. Good for them.

The survey also showed that about one in five complainants met with lack of interest, excuses or just had their complaint dismissed out of hand.

Only around the same number were treated well when they complained. Even when the service or product provider did try to make amends, over half took more than a week to do so and a quarter have yet to resolve the issue.

To provide bad service in the first place is pretty inexcusable, but to fail to correct the situation when someone complains is unbelievable -- or would be, if it didn't happen so often.

More than that, it's commercial suicide. Misery loves company and over two thirds of badly treated customers will tell three or more others about their experiences. One in five complainants will tell over ten other people. And, it doesn't stop there. The more digitally switched on will tell the world over some social medium or other.

Indignant customers can even tweet about it right under the counter-staff's noses, if they want to.

So, if people are complaining, why are they still being treated badly? My guess is that, because we Brits are new to this complaining lark, we probably aren't doing it very well.

Here's a few tips for top complaining, compiled from advice on howtocomplain.com and Consumer Direct, and some asking around. Service providers, this is what you should expect from badly treated customers. When you get it, please make a special effort to fulfil these expert complainers needs:

  1. Be clear about what it is you are complaining about and what you expect to happen as a result of your complaint.
  2. Stay calm, even though you are the injured party, a display of anger will always put the target of your ire on the defensive. Complaining is a dish best served cold -- after all you want to be able to enjoy it.
  3. Make sure you have all the evidence you need. Keep receipts and take photos if necessary.
  4. Make your complaint as early as possible. Don't give the transgressor a reason to say you'd already accepted the product or service in the state it was delivered.
  5. Be polite, courteous and if dealing with someone face-to-face, smile. Treating people with respect means you have captured the higher ground, making it more difficult for someone to dismiss your complaint.
  6. Make it clear that you appreciate that the person you are talking to isn't the one to blame (unless they are, in which case you are probably complaining to the wrong person anyway).
  7. Make it clear that the quality of the product or service isn't acceptable and let them know what you expect to be done about it and over what timescale.
  8. Keep meticulous records of all communications, including names, times and dates, and if necessary confirm what has been said to the relevant parties in writing.
  9. Give the transgressor a chance to rectify the situation, but if you don't receive satisfaction, be prepared to take the matter to a higher level, and let them know that's what you are prepared to do.
  10. If you do get satisfaction, thank the people you have been dealing with. If someone has gone the extra mile to set the matter right, acknowledging their effort will encourage them to do so again with the next complainant.
(Pic: leomf 666 cc2.0)