Do you ever find yourself combusting with anger whilst trying to resolve a complaint or a dispute? We’ve all been there. Steam coming out of our ears about a missing delivery, a warranty one day out of date or some general customer service incompetence. But the second your rage winds it’s way down the phone line it’s game over. Forget about being fawned over with immediate refunds or replacements on express delivery.  Nope, you will quietly seeth for the entire day and swear to never (ever) shop there again.

To get what you want out of a complaint without being an absolute tosser, there are some key strategies you should adhere to.

5 Steps to complain and get what you want

Facts Facts Facts

Before you unleash your wrath on the check-in girl, the store manager or the head teacher make sure you have a valid complaint. You are on the road to no where if you were the one to input your address incorrectly and are now demanding a Concorde re-delivery service.  Being confident about your facts, names, dates and reference details gives you a good head start going into the ring.  If you are fighting your battle on the phone have all your facts to hand and write down all the points you want to get across. Stick the facts and leave the emotion on the doorstep.

The ideal outcome

Be clear about what you want to achieve. Is it financial compensation, a replacement product, a credit note or just a simple apology. If they are not forthcoming with any resolution then ask what they are prepared to do to compensate you. Know what you are willing to accept but don’t show your hand. Be prepared to negotiate.

Watch your language

You’re seething with rage but take a breath and count to ten. Dealing with a complaint with a calm voice and a polite demeanour will instantly increase your chances of a positive outcome.  Whatever you do keep your potty mouth firmly shut and resist the urge to fire insults and make disparaging remarks. And don’t forget if you are in the right DON’T apologise.  Too often we pepper our dialogues with ‘I’m sorry to take up your time but…’ so be assertive but polite.

One trick we find that works well is to use language that slightly leads to the preferred outcome. So instead of banging your fist with ultimatums:  ‘If you don’t get my phone repaired by lunchtime I’m going to…’.  Instead try “what do we need to do to get my phone repaired by lunchtime?” Not only are you making it a collaborative effort but by phrasing it like this it’s hard not to illicit a positive response.

The Sandwich Approach

If you struggle to deliver a complaint effectively then it’s worth trying the Sandwich Approach. Guy Winch, Ph.D., author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results recommends this win-win technique.  What you do is effectively deliver the complaint by stating something positive, followed by your complaint and topped with an encouraging note.  So for e.g. if your child has been struggling with maths at school and you want the teacher to take action then your sandwich could be:

‘[Little Jonny] has been so happy at the school but lately we feel he is struggling with his maths and needs some one-one-one attention. We would really like to work together to find a solution that helps him catch up with the class’.

Follow Up

If you don’t receive the outcome you were after or if more investigation needs doing then be clear about the next steps. Who will be your lead contact for your complaint and what date should you expect a reply. Put it in your diary and give them an extra 24 hours to get back to you and then hound them. Persist to the bitter end – which is exactly what they are hoping you don’t have the time or energy for!