Consumers need to learn to know how to complain
It’s a sad but true fact that most consumers firmly believe that it doesn’t matter and won’t make a difference to complain about lousy service or inferior products. Common feelings are, “It won’t do any good. Nobody cares about one person’s complaints.” Multiply these frustrations by the thousands of folks who think this way and you can easily see how big a problem customer dissatisfaction can be. Millions of dollars are spent annually in advertising and marketing to gain customers, but it’s probably a safe bet to assume that quite a bit less than that is allotted for customer service training and handling customer complaints.
One effective weapon against unsatisfactory service is knowing how to complain. Whether you’re trying to get a store to refund your money because the lawn mower you bought keeps dying or you want a new chair for the one that was delivered broken, the secret to complaining is strategy. You can’t just scream into the phone at the receptionist because the electricity wasn’t turned on at your new house yesterday as promised or threaten to punch out the airline ticket agent because your baggage didn’t arrive home when you did.
As in any good strategy, there are ways to get what you want, but you have to plan. The following guidelines will help you come out a winner:
Pick the right person to complain to. Always get the name of the person you deal with and start with him or her. If you get no satisfaction there, go to his boss and keep climbing if necessary. Store managers don’t like unhappy customers. Similarly, large companies have consumer offices that handle nothing but complaints. But don’t be cornered in that department if the problem isn’t taken care of, contact upper level vice presidents and, if appropriate, the president. If you can’t get an address or telephone number locally, your library should have a copy of Standard & Poor’s Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives. This is a reference book that lists company information on a national level.
Be taken more seriously by writing your complaint down. Lodge your complaint by mail, even if you have called and been promised satisfaction. This shows you mean business, especially if you send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. You then have a record of what the problem is and when you asked for a solution and the company can’t pretend it doesn’t know what you’re talking about because your letter was “lost in the mail.” Keep your letter to the point and factual, with no distracting expletives that only enhance negative emotions. Also, write to a specific person instead of a generic “Dear Dummy-Who-Calls-Himself-A-Manager.” People read mail personally addressed; unstructured mail often ends up at the bottom of a large pile of correspondence or in the trash can.
Keep the evidence. Don’t throw away the defective product. You need proof that it doesn’t work. Or if it’s an intangible like a poorly performed service, take pictures and write the date on the back. Keep all documents, like sales receipts, model information and any correspondence about the product/service. The bottom fine is that you are responsible for proving your claim.
Be realistic. Tell the company what you want but leave room for negotiation. You may want a refund but if all company policy allows is a store credit, take it. The goal is to achieve equitable satisfaction, not make unrealistic, unfair demands.