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Planning Retirement Online

Top Tips for Complaining

If you have read the previous pages of this Guide, you will hopefully have learned some useful pointers for complaining effectively. On this final page, we are providing a list of top tips to think about when we complain. Some of them might repeat things that have been said elsewhere in the Guide but repetition of useful information never does any harm. (Neither does it mean that you shouldn't read the rest of the Guide!) The list is broken up into the different types of complaint and the various stages of complaining.

Instant Complaints  (e.g.: poor service in a shop or restaurant)

1. Try to stay calm. Losing our temper is rarely the best way of going about things.

2. Be assertive but not aggressive. It is usually more effective to be firm and remain in control of our emotions.

3. Even if the complaint is 'instant' we should try to decide what we are going to say and what result we want before we start.

4. If we do fail to get what we feel we should, telling them that we're going to escalate the complaint very often has the desired effect.

5. If our instant complaint doesn't work then we need to find out, if we can, if they are licensed by anyone, part of a trade body or accredited to any scheme. If so, they are probably the best people to contact.

6. Ensure that we keep records of all our conversations and put things in writing wherever possible.

7. Be persistent. If we feel that we have a legitimate complaint then we should pursue it. Very often, organisations use stalling and delaying tactics in the hope that we will give up.

The following boxes are devoted to Retrospective Complaints (e.g. a bad holiday, poor service from the council etc)

Before Complaining

1. Gather all the facts together and make sure that we can back up everything that we say, wherever possible.

2. Be clear about exactly why we are complaining and what we want to see happen as a result of our complaint.

3. Decide whether a telephone complaint or a written one will be more effective. Very often it is better to complain in person, i.e. over the phone if you can't physically go to the organisation. When we do this, we should always back it up in writing.

Assert Yourself: Effective Complaining (You Need This Book First)4. Decide where is the best place to complain to in the first instance (see the Who to Complain to page).

5. It's often helpful if we know our rights before complaining. If you are unsure, go to Citizen's Advice.

During Our Complaint

1. Stay calm and be assertive not aggressive (see Numbers 1 and 2 above). This should be easier if we are not complaining instantly because we will have had time to reflect and to calm down.

2. Present the facts in a clear and concise way, whether it's verbal or written, and state exactly what we expect to happen.

3. Ask to whom we are speaking, if it's a phone call.

4. Explain what we intend to do if we don't get what we expect. (This may be better left until we see the reaction to our initial complaint; we have to use our judgement.)

5. If we get what we want, be gracious in victory and thank them. If we don't, then leave them in no doubt that we will be taking further action.

After the Complaint

1. If it's a phone call, make a note of who we spoke to and what was said. If it's a letter, take a copy before sending it.

2. Keep a copy of all correspondence

3. Put all documentation in a file or folder so that we know where we can find it if necessary in the future.

4. Send letters by registered post/recorded delivery so that there is a record of it.

5. See Number 7 above - be persistent: if at first we don't succeed we should try, try, try again.

Guide to Complaining links

We shouldn't complain just for the sake of it; it becomes like the boy who cried wolf and we just get dismissed because we're the epitome of the 'grumpy old man' - or woman. However, we certainly should complain if we feel that goods or services are not up to the standard that they should be.

As a generalisation for this country, customer service is not as good as it should be and, if we don't complain when it is legitimate to do so, it will never improve. However, we need to know how to complain effectively, so read the rest of the Guide to find out how to be as effective as possible when the need arises to assert your rights as a consumer. If you have any hints or tips that you would like to share in order to make us all better at complaining, please do so through the feedback form or by going to our Forum.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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