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How to Complain

After yesterday's post, I though I should provide something a little more helpful to my readers. Here are some tips I've developed from answering customer service calls and emails from time to time. You may have some other extremely helpful tips, feel free to leave them in the comments so we can all benefit!

  • Be Specific. This is definitely my number one tip. If you aren't specific it means that the person on the other end doesn't know details that can be used to rectify the situation. Also, the more details you provide the more credibility you lend to the situation. If it is a reoccurring incident call each time it happens. From a customer service standpoint, we would rather rectify the situation now than find about it in two days when it has happened two more times.
  • Don't Rant, Yell, or Scream. Tell someone you would like to complain and then do it with a cool head. This may mean that you need to write an email complaint versus getting on the phone. Keep in mind that often the person taking the complaint is not the one who is responsible. (One time a man called the school where I was working to complain about the automated parent calling system. This older man did not have children, let alone ones that went to the school and was mad about phone calls. He yelled and screamed at me for a solid five minutes. I had nothing to do with the program, but was left in tears.)
  • Give Your Information. The man I was just talking about, did not at any point give me his phone number and we didn't have caller ID. His number could not be taken out of the system without us knowing it. When I take a phone call I generally always ask for a name and phone number in case we need more information. When I relay the message to the proper person I am able to give them the info so that they can get any questions answered. This also gives credibility to your complaint.
  • Don't threaten. When someone is complaining and they get hostile, either with words or body language, the person listening to you has stopped listening and is instead focused on getting you out of their face and away from them. Fight or flight kicks in. No complaint is important enough for you get so riled that the cops get called on you. If it is that important, notify proper authorities. Call the Better Business Bureau, the City or the authorities if the situation is that messed-up.
  • Confirm your Contact. I have heard complaints on all sorts of other businesses. In fact, most of the complaints I answer go something like this. "I'm so sorry about that, but I am not _enter other business name here_. I have their phone number as ______________ and would recommend that you call them." If they have already called I send them to the BBB or other authority that can actually help them. Meanwhile, I've wasted my time listening to them rant. All I want is my time back since most often reading the internet would have provided them the correct answer (that's where I got it).
  • Clarify. If someone has been writing down what you've been telling them they will have questions for you. This isn't because you were unclear, it is because they want to make sure they have the details. Give them a chance to ask questions and make it a conversation. This allows a solution to be reached.
  • Move on. When you have done all of the above and are satisfied that your very specific, calm, and clear complaint has been heard let the person move on it. Often I have taken a complaint and need to communicate it to someone else before it can be resolved. If the complainer stays on the line or continues talking to me then I can't relay the information as quickly as I need to. I am not putting you off, I am just trying to get my work done. If you really need additional closure I would suggest that you tell the person you will call them back in an appropriate amount of time and then do it. 
I know this is something a little random, but consider it my free advice to you. Those with customers want to know how to meet their needs and complaints provide a road-map. Whenever someone calls or emails me to complain I always thank them. They can give me invaluable insight.

Psst... You can follow me on facebook and twitter, if you want to, that is!


  1. This is a great post. I've never thought about it from the other side before. I'm not a big complainer, but if I want to complain I probably want the receiving end to do something about it, so yelling/ranting (which I would never do!) probably wouldn't help. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!

  2. I am not really a big complainer either. I do like to inform people of things if they are dangerous/rude. It takes a lot to infuriate me. Probably 80% of complaints start off with "I'm not really one to complain, but..."

    I live in the South, so that might have something to do with it, but it makes me laugh, especially if someone has complained to me previously.


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