Whether it’s deserved or not, the British have a reputation for moaning. We moan about the weather, about the trains not running on time and about the state of modern society. We moan about rising prices, deceitful politicians and how poor the TV is nowadays. Yet, when it comes to making a justifiable complaint about some product or service that has let us down, very few of us bother to make a coherent argument to the very people who might be able to resolve our complaint.

Part of the problem is our innate ‘stiff upper lip’ politeness in the face of even the most blatant rip-off. It’s as though we fear that the defective service provider or company might somehow be offended because we’ve dared to raise a complaint. Forget that idea. If you have genuine and demonstrable grounds for complaint, then it is your right to do so.

Even if complaining does not achieve the desired for you, it’s possible that you might save someone else from suffering the same problem. Here then, are some pointers that will help you to complain more successfully. Make absolutely sure you have grounds for complaint. Scrutinise the small print of guarantees, contracts, instructions and returns procedures before considering a complaint. If your woollen jumper explicitly says ‘warm wash only’ on the label and you boil wash it until it will fit an Action Man, then there’s not a lot of point in trying to complain to the manufacturer.

Your complaint should have a goal. What exactly is it that you hope to achieve by complaining? Would you like replacement goods? A full refund? Compensation?

It’s a good idea to understand what you want to achieve from your complaint as this will provide a focus for your complaint.

Calm down before complaining. It’s easy to see red when you feel that you’ve been mightily ripped off, but don’t let that temptation to pick up the phone and scream obscenities at some hapless customer adviser take hold.

Remove all emotion from the situation and stick to the facts only. Whether you’re phoning, writing or emailing to complain it’s fine to state your case firmly or to express that you are angry or disappointed, but you need neither to apologise nor to be impolite.

Aim your complaint at the right person If possible, try to find the name of the person with overall responsibility for dealing with customer complaints and address your complaints directly to them.

Try to get a direct email address and telephone number for them. Give it to them straight Having found the target for your complaint, give them the facts in a calm, polite and reasonable manner. Tell them what you expected, why you expected it, why your expectations weren’t met and what you would like from them in order to redress the situation.

Make sure that you set a deadline by which you expect your complaint to have been settled. If your deadline isn’t met, it’s time to escalate! If necessary, have product or service documentation at hand so that you can quote directly from it in order to reinforce your argument.

Take notes for later reference it’s always worth keeping a note of the key points of any conversation you have regarding your complaint. Jot down the date, time and the name of the person with whom you spoke. This is particularly useful if you are given contradictory information by two separate people.

Don’t be shy or apologetic if you have a genuine cause for complaint.

Finally, it is only be bringing to the attention of senior management detail of a company's failings, that improvements get made. We can all benefit in the long-run from your complaint.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Lewis writes for and manages the UK consumer advice and review site http://www.complaintsfactory.co.uk