The Complaining Cow’s Top 5 Tips for How to Complain Effectively!
AngryPolicyholders.com has followed the success over the last few years of consumer campaigner and bestselling author, Helen Dewdney – aka The Complaining Cow. Helen first came to our attention when she started her high profile campaign against Tesco via Twitter and her blog, TheComplainingCow.co.uk. Helen gained a reputation for being one of the UK’s most successful complainers leading to her being in demand by media and news outlets as a consumer experts.
Having fought for a payout off Scottish Provident over two and a half years I had to learn as I went along and dabbled in social media, specifically Twitter via the pudendum ScotProvSaysNo without any real knowledge or experience. Obviously, I learned quickly and picked up the skills I needed as I went along and finally succeeded in not only obtaining a payout, but also helping change the protection industry by getting UK insurers to stop selling the ‘useless’ task based income protection definitions.
I asked The Complaining Cow to give her top 5 tips on how to complain effectively to obtain a successful outcome.
Follow these simple rules and you’ll never be palmed off again with excuses, fobbed off, suffer contraventions of Laws or fail to get refunds again. Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow
Top 5 tips for complaining by TheComplainingCow.co.uk
1) Act quickly. Don’t waste weeks moaning, complain that day but remember to ensure you are calm if complaining in person or on the ‘phone! Keep copies of everything; you may need them if you have to take the matter further (Senior Management, Small Claims Court etc). Use the telephone if you are comfortable doing this. Some people prefer this finding it easier. But I rarely do this and always refuse if a ‘phone call is offered because there is no record for future use, no proof of what was said and you’ll forget something! Emails/letters provide time to reflect, ensure you don’t forget anything and provide you with a record of correspondence which cannot be denied. If you do ‘phone ensure that you get the full name of the person with whom you are talking and write down the date and time.
2) Always be polite either by phone or in writing. Remember that the people you are dealing with are not the people who have annoyed you and they are more likely to respond positively if you are polite. Never swear! Be rude and they can understandably refuse to deal with you. Be objective, don’t accuse and insult with phrases such as “…she was stupid,” use words and phrases like “…it appeared to me that…” Do however state facts.
3) Always use reference numbers where appropriate, make it easy for them to find your case. Describe events but don’t embellish them and use bullet points to help make your complaint very clear, especially when dates are involved (e.g. 10 phone calls, 2 visits, 2 letters, wrong information etc.). Be clear what you expect in recompense. An apology, money back, something for inconvenience? Be reasonable but assertive. Also, set a reasonable deadline for when you expect to hear back from them.
4) If all fails through Customer Services/the Manager if you are still not happy, then go to the CEO. You’ll find the details of CEOs here and don’t feel intimidated because you have more reason to go to the top if you have a complaint which has already been poorly dealt with than if you go straight there. Remember to highlight your legal rights and use the relevant Laws and legal jargon wherever possible to show that you know your legal rights which will always be taken seriously if used appropriately.
5) Finally, you can contact the relevant people or organisations e.g. Financial Ombudsman, Trading Standards or Small Claims Court, but be aware and prepared that if there is no suitable outcome you will have to spend time and effort taking it further, with some routes subject to fees (Small Claims Court for example). In the case of financial institutions and insurers who are regulated by the FCA there are certain timeframes set that they have to respond to a complaint. After 8 weeks if you have failed to get a reply you have the right to make a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FoS), however, beware that it can take a year to obtain an outcome via the FoS, longer if either party appeals a decision.
Don’t forget to come back and tell us how you got on through a tweet, comment below or pop over to my Blog, TheComplainingCow.co.uk to share your experiences or find out more ways on how to exercise your consumer rights and complain successfully. I like to hear about other people’s successes too!
Editor: for more tips on complaining read Helen’s blog here