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How to Complain Successfully (and Get Results)

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.

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 February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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