How to complain

Being British, it’s natural not to want to complain.  Well, we do.  We mutter under our breath when the waiter’s back is turned but as soon as he asks us ‘How is everything?’ we found ourselves smiling and nodding, and saying those inane words: “It’s lovely, thank you”.

Well, no more!  I’ve had enough of spending my hard-earned money on sub-standard and over-priced food/drink/service.

In the last two days I’ve complained twice.  Yes, that’s two times.  And I’m not sorry.  No. In fact, I’m proud.  But there are ways to do it, which can mean the difference between walking out with your head held high and shuffling out with your other half whinging about what an embarrassment you are, and they’re never going out with you, not ever again.

Despite being British, I do complain if I feel the need, so I feel well qualified enough to offer some top tips on how to do it well.  Here goes:

1.Maintain your dignity

Take the moral high ground when complaining.  This means never swearing, never insulting or raising your voice and never, under no circumstances, losing your cool and punching someone.  This is easier said than done when you’re angry, but lose your dignity and you’ve lost your argument.

Shouting and screaming at them makes them think you’re a customer they’re better off without.

If you do decide never to return, as I did with our local pub yesterday when the landlord treated me, I felt, very unkindly, I want him to be sorry that he’s lost me as a customer.

2. Remain calm

Keep your voice calm and speak slowly.  Don’t interrupt the other person; let them have their say, then have yours.  There’s nothing that riles your rival more than you being calm when they’re feeling the pressure.

3. Have a witness

If you take your complaint to the next level, e.g. it goes to the management, make sure you have a witness to the original discussion.  Try to get an impartial person where possible, such as another customer.  If the witness is one of your party or the member of staff’s colleague then obviously they’re going to be subjective, which is why a neutral third party is always preferable.

Ask for this third party’s contact details so you can contact them later if necessary.

4. Photographic / video evidence

If appropriate then take photographic / video evidence which illustrates your complaint.  This can’t be argued with as easily as a ‘he said / she said’ scenario.

5. Feedback is helpful

Remember that if you’re dealing with a civilised human being, they should know that customer feedback is helpful, even if it’s negative.  Pointing out their errors, as long as it’s done in a polite way, will help them from repeating the same mistake again.  Decent establishments really do want to know if you’ve had a less than positive experience and should thank you for it if it’s put across in the right way.  If they don’t, then they don’t deserve your custom.

6. Credit where credit’s due

It’s bad for the soul being someone who complains but doesn’t compliment.  It’s important to complain when something’s not right, but it’s just as important to say positive things when things are right.  If you have a good experience somewhere, tell them.  Tell them at the time, tell their boss or write in afterwards.

7. Taking to social media

This is many people’s first port of call now if they’ve had a bad time somewhere, even if they haven’t complained at the time.  I don’t really like doing this and will only leave a bad public review if I’ve given the business time to rectify my issue and they’ve chosen to do nothing about it.

Trip Advisor can be really helpful but it’s important to take into consideration that more people will put a review on there if they’ve had a bad experience than if they’ve had a good one.

I would recommend only taking to social media if you’ve tried everything else and they haven’t listened.  Also, if you are going to post a negative review, make sure you show other users that you are a well-balanced person who also gives credit where it’s due by posting positive reviews.  I wouldn’t therefore make your first review a negative one; build your online profile first to ensure other users trust your opinion.


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