Young woman screaming

When We Just Wanna Scream…

We all have the right to complain if we receive goods or services that aren’t up to scratch. The trick to getting what we want is to keep things positive. It is no good shouting into the void. Here are Quids in!’s 7 tips for making a complaint that will get results


1. What do we want?
Usually, a successful complaint will lead to one of three things:

  • An exchange or improved service
  • A refund
  • Compensation

So before we pick up the phone or a pen or start typing, we should have worked out which of these we want. We may not always get exactly what we ask for, but having a firm idea of what we want makes it much more likely.

Of the three options:

  • An exchange or improved service is most likely to be the easiest thing to get
  • A full refund is possible in many cases, but more difficult to get than an exchange
  • Compensation, if you’ve had your time wasted, for example, is the most difficult to come by, but still possible.

2. Act in time
As soon as we realise we’ve been sold something faulty or shoddy, or received a bad service, we need to raise a complaint. The longer we leave our complaint, the less likely we are to get the outcome we want.

In some cases, acting swiftly might even mean we don’t have to complain at all. We might be within the period in which a shop accepts returns, or still within what’s known as a cooling off period.

3. Seek help if you need it
There are loads of helpful types out there that can help us when making a complaint. For many people with an issue, the first stop would often be Citizens Advice. They offer free and impartial advice, although some offices can be busy, so check out their website too. Other organisations like Money Saving Expert and Which? have loads of advice and guidance on complaints.

Both Citizens Advice and Which? also have complaint letter templates. These templates can help make the process much less daunting.

4. For the record
When making a complaint, we need as much evidence as possible to make our case. We should always keep the receipts when we buy something valuable. The same goes for contracts that we get when we buy a service.

Any other evidence we can pull together is helpful, too. For example, if you are complaining to a landlord over damp, take photos if you can. Also, always keep any correspondence via email/letter with the goods or service provider – they may come in handy down the line. Make a note of dates, including when the first complaint is raised.

If we feel we’ve been treated badly, we should keep a full record of where, when and how. If possible, take a note of the name of anyone that let us down. But don’t make it personal. The idea is to get what we want, not to exact revenge – some companies will defend their staff to the hilt.

5. Stay calm
We all know how easy it is to get angry if we’ve received a shoddy service or been treated badly. The problem is that if we become too emotional when making a complaint, we make it much less likely to get what we want. By staying calm and in control we can make sure we don’t do anything to harm our claim.

6. Ways to complain
There are three main ways to actually make a complaint:

  • Complain in person
  • Write a letter or email
  • Call to make the complaint

Before we start a complaint in any of these ways, we should make sure we’re clear in our head on two things. Why we’re complaining, and what we want to get out of the complaint. It’s always good to write it down first.

Letters and emails of complaint are often best because they create a record. These should be addressed and sent to customer services or complaints departments. These details can usually be found on a company’s website or sometimes even on receipts or contracts.

If complaining by phone, again make sure you go through to the right department, usually customer services or complaints. Make sure to keep a record of who you talk to and what time and date the call was made. Stay calm during the call. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, it’s fair to ask to speak to another member of staff/manager.

If complaining in person it’s very important to keep a cool head. If you feel anxious about making a complaint in person, consider taking a trusted friend or family member along.

7. Up the chain
If our complaint is not upheld but we still feel we have not received what we’re entitled to, we can escalate our complaint. This could involve a more senior person at the place we’re complaining to but, failing that, it means going to what’s called an Ombudsman. An ombudsman is a free, impartial and independent group that helps resolve complaints.

There are ombudsmen for loads of different sectors, everything from energy providers or money lenders (including retailers offering credit on household items) to housing. Using an ombudsman is the last step before taking a case to court, so it is a serious step. Citizens Advice has loads of information on ombudsmen, including contact details, here.

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