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How complaining (the right way!) can pay

Christmas is a great time for buying and receiving gifts, but, occasionally, you don’t get what you want from a company. If something arrives too late, or your gift is faulty, knowing how to complain, politely and effectively, is important.

We spend more on Christmas presents than any other European country – a whopping 32% more than France, the second most prolific gift buyers – and £200,000 will be spent on gifts every minute during the run-up to Christmas, according to voucher site Voucherbox.

Yet more than £645m is spent on unwanted gifts every year.

If you've received poor service this year, don't panic.

We asked James Walker, founder of consumer complaints site Resolver.co.uk, for his top tips on complaining effectively.

Why you should complain about poor service

Among the British, there is a peculiar stigma attached to complaining. It’s all wrapped up in the stoical make-do, stiff-upper-lip attitudes that some people feel is central to ‘Britishness’.

Be honest with yourself – have you ever caught yourself responding to poor service of some sort by saying ‘Do you know what? I’m almost tempted to write a letter about that…’? Chances are the answer is yes.

Yet if something doesn’t come up to scratch that is provided for you as a consumer – you should be more than ‘almost tempted’ to complain – you should go ahead and do it! 

It is perfectly reasonable to stand up for yourself when necessary. If you feel as if someone or some business has done you wrong, then by all means you should tell them so. Yet there is an art to considerate complaining that not only keeps courtesy in mind, but is also likely to get you the results you want. And remember – services can’t improve unless the business gets feedback.

How to complain about poor service

When complaining be conscious of your language, tone of voice and, if face to face, your body language. Your message is not in the words but the way your words come across. Your first reaction may be to raise your voice and take out your frustration on the person you are speaking to or emailing. But take a breath and calmly express your reasons for being upset.

When engaging with your key service providers, it’s important to remember that the person you’re talking to is unlikely to be responsible for your issue. Being aggressive in your tone will only make the other party defensive and raise the potential for conflict. The best way to be able to get your result is to remain in control, calm and focussed.

A great tip is to be conscious of the language you use. For example do not use “you” and “your” in your sentences. It’s like verbal finger pointing and it puts people on the defensive. Also avoid emotional language like “I am sick of your service”, and refocus on what the failing is and how it could be improved to meet your expectations.

Remember, too, that they need you more than you need them! It's more expensive to find new customers than it is to keep existing ones. If a company is sensible, they know that it's worth keeping you as a customer. This means they should work on how to ensure you are happy at the end of the complaints process.  

Finally - don’t give up. Set yourself reminders, know when to escalate and what to do next.

This is a guest post from Resolver and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Money Advice Service. You can find out more about Resolver over on their website

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