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Planning Retirement Online

Why Complain?

There would seem to be an obvious answer to this question, which is, 'Because we're unhappy with what we've received'.

Indeed, that's a very good answer and, of course we should complain if we're genuinely unhappy with something we've bought or with a service we've received. We're not advocating that we should complain at every little thing and fulfil the 'grumpy old man' (or woman) syndrome. However, if we really feel that we have reason to complain, then we should do.

There are other reasons why we should complain. If we feel that we've been sold things that are not of the quality that they should be or if we've received shoddy service then we have every right to complain and, if we don't, the organisation will never know and therefore they won't even have the chance to improve. We want organisations to improve their products and services so, if necessary, we should complain.

If we're properly altruistic, we should also complain for the good of others. If we've received poor quality goods or services then we should try to prevent others receiving the same. Unless we complain we shall never persuade organisations of the need to improve and therefore other people will be put in the position as us.

There may be even more pressing reasons to complain. It may be that, if we don't complain to organisations about things, we are leaving others exposed to danger. Faulty electrical goods, dangerous pavements and poor lighting in public places are some examples of why we might need to complain on safety grounds. 'Health and safety' is becoming a bit of a laughing matter these days but we must remember that some things really are dangerous.

It might be difficult sometimes to distinguish between a complaint and a 'suggestion for improvement'. We might have reason to moan about something but, at the same time, have a genuine interest in getting things improved. The desire for improvement is therefore another reason to complain, but be careful about your real reason and motivation for your communication with the organisation if this is the case; it will affect how you should approach it. A complaint is basically negative, whereas an idea for improvement is a positive step and it's sometimes very difficult to reconcile a positive with a negative. So before you contact an organisation with a complaint that is also an improvement idea, we should make sure that we use the appropriate language and tone.

So, to sum up, there are a number of reasons to complain:

1. We are unhappy with a product or goods that we have bought. It may have been damaged in transit or perhaps it doesn't work properly. Maybe it just doesn't do what it claims it does.

2. We are dissatisfied with a service that we have received or did receive. It may be that the service in a restaurant is poor, the after-sales service from a utility company is non-existent, the local council has failed to empty the bins for three weeks, an on-line company has failed to deliver something on time etc.

3. We may have waited in all day for someone to deliver something to us and they haven't arrived. Perhaps a plumber has said that he will come on a certain day and hasn't turned up.

4. We are not being treated properly by the staff of an organisation. It may be that a call-centre operator is unhelpful or rude, a waiter is being off-hand, a shop assistant refuses to acknowledge our presence or a council employee is obstructive.

5. Customer service is poor. We might have had to wait on the phone for ages before we are put through to someone or we may be passed from department to department with no-one showing any signs of taking responsibility for our call.

Guide to Complaining links

6. Organisations dispute what we think we're entitled to. Insurance is a good example: we think we're entitled to claim for something and,when we try, they tell us that we can't.

7. To give organisations the chance to improve. If they don't know that people are unhappy with them they will not realise there is a need to get better.

8. To try to ensure that other people don't experience the situation that has caused us to complain.

9. To prevent potentially dangerous situations occurring.

It's important that we do complain when we have a genuine reason to, so those of us who don't really like to complain shouldn't feel bad about doing so. By letting our feelings be known we are potentially doing a favour both for the organisation to whom we are complaining and to other people.

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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