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How to Complain Successfully (and Get Results)

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How to Complain Successfully (and Get Results)

The fridge has packed up, your running machine has begun to smoke, and your disk drive is not opening. We all end up with one or two faulty products. Sometimes, it is our own fault and we have to accept it. But other times we have a suspicion that we are not the ones in the wrong.

First, let’s check to see if you have a valid right to complain.

At the end of the day, there is no point complaining if you don’t have cause to do so. There is a general set of rules set out by the Sale of Goods act 1979, which discusses the rules of trading goods. It can be summarized as follows:

  • Is the product fit for the purpose it was designed for?
  • Does the product come as it was described?
  • Is the product of satisfactory quality?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, it is likely you are in a decent position to demand a refund, replacement or repair. There is more criteria covered in the Sale of Goods act, but generally, if it wasn’t your fault and you didn’t know about a problem, you have a case.

What do you want to achieve from the complaint?

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One of the strongest things you can do when confronting a business with a complaint is to demand something. This could be a full refund, a partial refund, a replacement, repair, or even compensation above and beyond the price of the goods if you feel you have suffered as a result. Think about what action you will accept from the company as a fix for the problem.

The Complaint Timeline

To make this as simple as possible, a timeline can be created from the information given to us from the Sale of Goods act. Remember that even if the warranty runs out, you are automatically covered by these rules:

< 1 month – if you have had the product for less than a month, you can expect to receive a full refund for most products. In retail terms, up until a month has passed you are still saying “I haven’t accepted the product is right yet.”

< 6 months – Up until the 6-month period has passed, the Sale of Goods act, together with the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumer Regulations 2003 tell us that it is up to the shop/trader to prove that the fault is not theirs. This effectively means that they are guilty until they have proved otherwise. At this point, you can expect to receive a refund or repair.

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< 6 years – Yes, there is still a case for goods that have gone awry even up to 6 years. If it is reasonable that the product should last at least 6 years (a £3000 refrigerator!), and YOU can prove that the fault is due to the trader, you are in for fighting chance. However, you may have to settle for a partial refund or repair since the time has been so long from purchase.

Get your weapons ready

Before complaining, you will want to gather your shield and sword by assembling any paperwork, receipts, and proof of purchase you have from the transaction. Take pictures of the flaw and spend some time searching online for information about the problem. There may be a solution available or you can read up on how others have reacted to the same problem (the famous XBOX 360 ‘Red Rings’ still haunt thousands of gamers today). All of this can help you when you begin communicating and complaining to the trader.

You are ready to complain

You will want to start by making contact with the trader to make your complaint (whomever you signed a contract with and gave money to for the product). Call them or send them an email and tell them quite clearly that you “wish to complain” about a product. Explain the circumstance and be sure to get the name of the person you are speaking to. (You don’t want to have to explain yourself over and over again to multiple people).

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At this point, the trader has up to 8 weeks to respond to your complaint by law. You can always send reminder emails but try to remain calm…and keep it clean!

Heating it up

Whilst many businesses would have heard customers quote the Sale of Goods act, it is definitely worth bringing up. Ask to speak to a manager or even contact the director of the company if you can find a contact number for them. (Type the business name into LinkedIn, chances are is he/she has an account ;-)

If even complaining to people higher up in the company does not work, you can start to introduce the threat of further action.

“I’m seriously considering calling ‘Watchdog’ if action is not taken soon!”

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Ouch!…That will get their attention.

That’s a right hook if ever I saw one! Keep it up with another phone call and give it a more few days, but if nothing happens still, it’s time to get serious.

When it gets serious

When there seems to be nothing more you can do to get the solution you want, it is time to call in reinforcements. Getting in touch with Watchdog or with an Ombudsman Service (for financial services complaints) will give you the support you need throughout your complaining process. Watchdog may also publically shame the trader and be able to warn other possible customers to stay away!

Another course of extreme action is to file in small claims court, which will accept cases up to £3,000.

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Hopefully, this has shown you how to complain and get results. For more in depth information on your consumer rights, these websites may be helpful:

Featured photo credit:  Angry man screaming via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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