Making a complaint 

When something goes wrong it can be hard to know how to handle it, but we’ve got some tips for how to complain effectively.

Eleven steps to complaining effectively
1. Know your rights. Do you know what your legal rights are in this matter? Find this out before you go back, so you can complain confidently. We can help you understand your rights.
2. If possible, go back and talk to the person you dealt with in the first place. It’s not always practical to do this, but generally it’s a good idea to go back and talk with them. Sometimes the problem might be just the result of a misunderstanding or an honest mistake that could be put right straight away.   

3. Don’t delay. Act now before you forget the important stuff. Also, there may be a time limit for making a complaint. 

4. Be reasonable when asking for the situation to be ‘put right’. Your request is most likely to be granted if it is fair, and proportionate to the problem you have.

5. Collect the evidence and have it with you e.g. the faulty product, quote, receipt, or contract. Make notes of what happened and keep a paper trail until the issue is resolved. That way you don’t have to rely on your memory and can back up your case.

6. Prepare your approach. Practise what you are going to say. Consider taking along a friend for emotional support. Pick someone who is calm and can keep you calm too.

7. Keep your cool. Keeping calm and polite will get you further than if you don’t! If the other party tries to engage you in an argument you can either ask to speak to the manager/supervisor instead, or go away and investigate the other channels for addressing your complaint.

8. It’s usually best to escalate the issue within the business/organisation first, if that is an option. If talking to the person you dealt with in the first place doesn’t help, ask to talk to their senior (team leader/supervisor/manager). If this doesn’t resolve the matter, ask them to link you with the relevant complaints service. If that doesn’t work you may need to escalate the complaint to a third party.

9. Make sure the other party can contact you if necessary. If the person (or their senior) is going to follow up your complaint and get back to you later, make sure they have your contact details, and make sure that you have their contact details and ask for reference number if possible.

10. Get their decision in writing if you can - even if it was made over the phone. This will help you if you have to dispute anything or take things further.

11. Writing a formal letter of complaint can help. If talking with the other party doesn’t sort out the problem, putting your complaint in writing can help by adding weight to your complaint. Even if it doesn’t change their minds, it is a useful summary of the facts if you want to take your complaint further - and sometimes a formal letter is required for the next stage in the complaints process. See Writing a letter of complaint for more about this.

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