The hours stuck in a phone queue, endless transfers to other departments, standard responses and other horrors from firms who just don’t get it.
I set up Resolver to help people by providing one simple way to make complaints. But things don’t always go to plan.
So, if you want to improve your chances of succeeding with your complaint, there are a few things to bear in mind.
The team at Resolver spoke to a wide range of people in customer services to find the things that really get under their skin.
Angry patient trashed doors at South Tyneside District Hospital after falling asleep and missing treatment
Man broke into South Shields home of Good Samaritan who tried to help him
Woman’s death in South Shields' property treated as ‘unexplained’ while police inquiries ‘ongoing’
Man grew his own cannabis supply to help cope with back pain
Violent Washington robber broke ex-partner's jaw and raided South Shields newsagents armed with knife
* Swearing and rudeness: Yes, it’s obvious but a huge number of people just can’t help themselves when it comes to making a complaint. So drop the swears. And any negative tone if you can – sarcasm never slips under the radar.
* BLOCK CAPITALS!!! We Brits tend to interpret block capitals as being shouted at by someone. And that may well be what you intended, but it can work against your complaint. The same goes for the ‘underline’ function, different colour fonts, excessive exclamation marks, extra-large print or a combo of all of these.
* Paragraphs: It’s not all about keeping calm. Big blocks of text are hard to read and can get in the way of understanding your argument. Pop some paragraphs in and it’s much easier to digest.
* Dear Sirs… Because many women work in customer services. Dear Sir/Madam is fine, or even a ‘Hello’ or address the letter to the complaints team.
* Stream of thought sentences: When you’re upset, it’s hard to focus on your argument. But try noting down the key points in bullet point form. It’ll help you make sense of what it is you want them to hear.
* It’s not a novel: Some complaints do go on for years – and there are times when paperwork will become lengthy. But most complaints succeed where they’re summarised in clear and simple terms. If your summary is straying over 10 pages, it’s way too long.
* Separation: It’s easy to focus on the person dealing with your complaint as part of the problem. But rather than take it out on them, it helps to emphasis that it’s the business you’re annoyed with – not them. Many call center workers have bonkers targets – sometimes up to taking 20 calls an hour. A little empathy goes a long way. And they may go out of their way to help you too.
* Patience! Ask what the timescales are for resolving your complaint and when you can expect to the contacted. But don’t jump the gun or try to make the same complaint through numerous people. It can actually delay sorting things out due to the confusion. If you have an urgent situation, make sure you explain why the problem needs to be dealt with as a priority. A business can sort out the urgent part of a complaint straight away and address the other issues later, if it understands why you need help now.
* Most importantly, don’t forget to say what you want to sort the complaint out. Loads of people miss this out, but it’s key. Don’t leave it for the firm to guess – make it clear. Most of the things I’ve mentioned happen because of frustration – and you should never have to accept bad service. So don’t be put off, take a deep breath and get in touch if you need help getting started.