Friday 4 November 2005

How to complain - Part 2

Last week we talked about some of the key rules about complaining. We did this because almost all of us actually find complaining very difficult and we often find it difficult to complain in a way that actually works. We end up either giving in because we are too polite or else we find ourselves shouting and screaming because we’ve been pushed beyond reasonable endurance.

The rules we outlined were quite simple but they can all be overlooked in the heat of battle!

Calm down. Keep it cool and you’ll stay in control.

Be reasonable. Yes, sometimes we get SO mad but it’s critical not to lose the battle by becoming the bad guy. Make sure you remain the good guy at ALL times.

Seek advice. Don’t forget that there ARE people out there who will help!

Put it in writing. Phone calls, emails and conversation aren’t good enough. If you mean it, write it and post it!

Keep records. Keep copies of everything. Every receipt, invoice and letter. Keep notes from how many calls you’ve made, including names of the people you spoke to. Everything.

Escalate. If the little guy on the other side doesn’t help you then talk to the big guy! “Never accept a No from someone not able to give you a Yes”!

Don’t give up. Do not let them grind you down.

Chase them. “Fortune favours the brave”. Take the battle to them. Phone them every week. For ever or until they give in!

Take control. They are in the wrong, you are in the right. You are in charge.

Manipulate their emotions. Appeal to their better nature. Even if they don’t actually have one they probably want the public to think that they do.

Get nasty. Set your MP on them. If that doesn’t work then call us and we’ll set Kate and her team of watchdogs on them!

So how actually do you do it?

This sounds very easy but how exactly do you do it? How exactly do you write a letter that sticks to these principles?

Keep it short and simple

Try your best to keep all letters of complaint short, simple and direct. Give the supplier enough information to research the matter but don’t go on and on. If they are faced with four pages of ranting they will not understand what actually went wrong. Be fair to them and make it easy to understand.

Give them facts

Give them all the boring dates, locations, names, model numbers and serial numbers. Say things like “On 15th October 2005 at 11:45 I purchased an Acme Widget 321 for P599 from your store at Toy City, serial number 123456789. When I first used the Widget the whatsit did not operate according to the manual and the thingamajig was cracked.”

Give them evidence

Give them photocopies of receipts or invoices. Do NOT give them the originals. Many stores really do have internal rules that require receipts as proof of purchase so they really can’t do much without a receipt.

If you’ve lost the receipt (we’ve all done it) you should still complain, explain that you don’t have the receipt but try and supply them with other evidence like a credit card bill, debit card transaction slip or the original packaging.

Give them a solution

Tell them exactly what will make you go away and give them a quiet life. Give them the solution you want. Say things like “I require an apology and for your company to compensate me for the phone calls, taxi fares and medical expenses I have incurred. So far this totals P400.”

Also make I clear what is NOT acceptable. Say things like “Unfortunately a replacement is not acceptable as I no longer have faith in this manufacturer.”

However, don’t go over the top. Don’t demand the earth when all that’s needed is an apology and a free voucher. Thankfully Botswana isn’t a litigation-happy culture like the USA and we really don’t want to see it become that way. A broken DVD player does NOT entitle you to compensation for your emotional trauma and the psychotherapy sessions you needed as a result. Be realistic!

Don’t be crazy

Don’t write in capitals, it just looks like your shouting. Don’t write a complaint letter in green ink. It’s just weird! Don’t become a stalker. Don’t give them an opportunity to reject you as a lunatic!

Do NOT let them pressurise you

A few companies just cannot take criticism. We’ve seen it often during our time fighting for consumers. When faced with a genuine complaint rather than fix it promptly and courteously they get defensive, they then go into denial and they finally get aggressive. We’ve been threatened with litigation by stores twice in the last couple of weeks just because we defended someone or reported facts. Clearly some stores think that by acting like this they’ll frighten consumers away from standing up for their rights.

If a supplier you are arguing with gets aggressive then you should understand that this is almost certainly because they realise they’re in the wrong and they don’t want anyone to know this.

So don’t be threatened or pressurised. If they get heavy with you then give us a call. There are few things Consumer Watchdog enjoys more than taking on a supplier who’s getting nasty!

If you can do all these things your complaint stands a really good chance of motivating the right person to fix your problem for you, of getting your what you want and allowing you to get in with your life!

This week’s stars!

  • Lawrence and the technical team at Securicor for being friendly, quick and really helpful
  • Kabelo at BTC for making things happen!
  • Also at BTC, Alice and Tsholofelo for listening to a customer and following up.
  • Kgomotso at Aluminium 2000 for being really friendly and great at customer service
  • Goitsemang at Stanbic Fairgrounds for going beyond the call of duty

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