Swearing, shouting and sarcasm won't help you

I spend a huge amount of my time encouraging people to make complaints. But I know all too well what can go wrong when you do. From the hours stuck in the queue to speak to someone, endless transfers to other departments, standard responses and other horrors from firms who just don't get it.

I set up Resolver to help people by providing one simple way to make complaints. But things don’t always go to plan. So, if you want to improve your chances of succeeding with your complaint, there are a few things to bear in mind.

The team at Resolver spoke to a wide range of people in customer services to find the things that really get under their skin.

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◆ Swearing and rudeness. Yes, it’s obvious but a huge number of people just can’t help themselves when it comes to making a complaint. So be polite. And avoid any negative tone if you can – sarcasm never slips under the radar.

◆ BLOCK CAPITALS!!! We Brits tend to interpret block capitals as being shouted at by someone. And that may well be what you intended, but it can work against your complaint. The same goes for the “underline” function, different colour fonts excessive exclamation marks, extra-large print or a combo of all of these.

◆ Paragraphs. It’s not all about keeping calm. Big blocks of text are hard to read and can get in the way of understanding your argument. Pop some paragraph breaks in and it’s much easier to digest.

◆ Dear Sirs… Because many women work in customer services. Dear Sir/Madam is fine, or even a “Hello”, or address the letter to the complaints team.

◆ Stream of thought sentences. When you’re upset, it’s hard to focus on your argument. But try noting down the key points in bullet point form. It’ll help you make sense of what it is you want the business to understand.

◆ It’s not a novel. Some complaints do go on for years – and there are times when paperwork will become lengthy. But most complaints succeed where they’re summarised in clear and simple terms. If your summary is straying over 10 pages, it’s way too long.

◆ Separation. It’s easy to focus on the person dealing with your complaint as part of the problem. But it helps to emphasise that it’s the business you’re annoyed with – not them. Many call centre workers have bonkers targets – sometimes up to taking 20 calls an hour. A little bit of empathy goes a long way. And they may be able to go out of their way to help you too.

◆ Patience. Ask what the timescales are for resolving your complaint and when you can expect to the contacted. But don’t jump the gun or try to make the same complaint through numerous people. It can actually delay sorting things out due to the confusion. If you have an urgent situation, make sure you explain why the problem needs to be dealt with as a priority. A business can sort out the urgent part of a complaint straight away and address the other issues later, if it understands why you need help now.

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Most importantly, don’t forget to say what you want to happen to sort the complaint out. Don’t leave it for the firm to guess.

You should never have to accept bad service. So don’t be put off, take a deep breath and get in touch if you need help getting started at www.resolver.co.uk.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk