How to make a complaint

Sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to. A waiter might get your order wrong, a sales person might be rude to you or your teacher might give you a hard time when marking an assignment. When these things happen, you might get really angry or upset. Different people deal with tricky situations in different ways. Some shrink away and let people walk all over them, while others blow up and scream the place down. I prefer to take the middle ground.


Sometimes, it is perfectly acceptable to complain as long as you do it right. Here is a brief guide to making effective, reasonable complaints and increasing your own self-confidence.


Sometimes a complaint is warranted. Here’s how to do it right…


Assess the situation and decide whether a complaint is necessary.

If the consequences of the transgression are quite serious, or if your feelings have been injured, you should probably make a complaint. If the incident is minor, like a cashier who gave you a funny look (that could merely have been a suppressed sneeze) it’s not worth wasting your time. Have the confidence to stand up for yourself when the time is calls for it, but don’t act like a diva who whinges about every little thing. If you do,  nobody will take you seriously when you actually have something that needs to be addressed.


Make sure that you address your complaint to the correct person.

It’s really important to find out who will be the best person to deal with your complaint.  In a store or restaurant, you should try to speak to a manager.  If you’re upset about the outcome of an assignment or an application, then it’s best to go directly to the person who made the decision to begin with.  This ensures that your complaint is heard by the person who has the power to do something about it, and reduces the likelihood that the meaning will be lost as it is passed from person to person.  If you aren’t happy with the outcome, you can always find out if there is a higher authority that you can get in touch with for a review.


Stay calm and be polite.

Address the person in a firm but even tone of voice and succinctly outline the reason for your complaint. Don’t ramble or lose your temper. Be assertive, not aggressive.


Don’t expect a miracle

The best case scenario is that you will get an apology, your problem will be fixed and you might get a voucher or something to compensate for your trouble.  However, you might not get any of these things.  Keep an open mind be realistic about the likelihood that the problem will be resolved.


Be aware of your rights.

If you are complaining about something that infringes the law, be prepared to follow up the complaint by consulting a higher authority, such as an ombudsman. This will allow them to assess the situation and rectify it if necessary so that other people won’t have to put up with the same problem.


 Realize when you are beaten.

Don’t waste your time hammering on if you are getting nowhere.  Don’t get so attached to the idea of making things right that you waste a lot of time an energy on something that really isn’t that big a deal.  Know when to cut your losses and walk away from a conflict that you aren’t going to benefit from.


Most of all, remain confident and realise that it is perfectly fine to complain when there is something really wrong, but don’t waste your time whinging about things that are unimportant or can’t be changed.


Have you ever made a complaint?  How did you go about it?


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