Learn about different ways of complaining plus useful tips on how to complain effectively!

Business Magazine - Complaining

Instructions

Do the Preparation task first. Then read the Text. Next go to each Task and do the activity.

The different ways of complaining are:

  • Face to face
  • By phone
  • By email
  • By letter

Let’s first take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each before concluding which is the most effective.

Picture this scenario: you have bought a faulty item from a shop and you take it back to complain. You go directly to the shop assistant and tell them your problem. They say they cannot help you, which makes you angrier, to the point perhaps where you start insulting the poor shop assistant. RESULT: This will do you no favours, like getting any compensation, or even a refund. If you go directly to the first person you see within the organisation you are complaining about, you may be wasting your time as they may be powerless to take any action or provide you with a solution. So the important lesson to be learnt is to make sure firstly that you are speaking to the relevant person, the one who has the authority to make decisions.

Perhaps you don’t have time to actually go and see the relevant authority in person so you decide to make a phone call. The problem with complaining by phone is that you may be passed around from department to department, making you more and more angry until you finally give up. Either that or the phone is hung up on you, which leaves you fuming even more. Furthermore, any contact can be denied.

The same applies to emails too, which can additionally be deleted, or even manipulated.

This leaves us with the traditional letter. When we first make a complaint the usual response is a request to write a letter:  “Can you put that down in writing please?”

The advantages of writing a letter of complaint are that:

  • Written records are still very important, e.g. in legal matters as opposed to a fax or email.
  • You have complete control over what is being said, and you can present evidence.
  • You can be prepared, and plan your letter carefully.
  • You are able to keep copies of anything sent in writing.
  • You have time to reflect and/or consult as opposed to complaining on the spot.

So here are some useful points to consider when writing your letter:

  • State what went wrong exactly. You need to provide concrete evidence, with documentation, for example a receipt, where possible. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence, including relevant documentation. You also need to state where, when, who was involved, what was said or done. Photographic or video evidence boosts your case.
  • What do you expect from your complaint?  If you are complaining about a situation at work, focus on taking action to improve situations rather than spending your time complaining.
  • State a time limit for when you expect a reply.
  • Be assertive, and stay calm.
  • Make sure you address the complaint to the relevant person.

This will be more likely to ensure that you will achieve a satisfactory outcome from your complaint. Good luck!

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Comments

Nowadays, online shopping is enormously popular due to internet development and people purchase the items online more and more. Although traditional letter complaints is the most effective way according to texts, I think email and messaging are faster and easier to have complaint at online shopping websites because it can directly get to either local sellers or overseas.

In my country, sometimes we can back the object directly in the customer services into the shop, and the big problem is the customer support with a phone call, many times I just lost my time around twenty minutes or more.

These type of thing happened sometimes in my country. Sometimes they solved our problems very easy way. Shop assistants managed directly but in next day. Some shops never responsible for that. Most complicated field is apartment services they never give respond and solve the problems. So, now I know the collect concrete evidence and go to relevant person who will make decision.

In our country it will be work in different ways. Some companies have very good customer services. it's enough to show them your receipt and thing you've bought in good condition, so they can change your item or send you to the workshop to check it if it doesn't work due to manufcture mistake. Other companies have bad customer services you have to go through letter exchanging or even go to the court to have a refund.

In our country, we could go to the customer service if something we have just bought wasn't working. But, we don't get any refund if the damage is caused by customers and you have to accept that outcome even though you are not satisfied because we don't have a system like complaining by letters.

The same to our country...

Hi,
Even in 21st century, it is better to make a complain by a letter.
Yes, I agree with you. Complaining by phone is always frustrating by being "on hold".
I will always choose to write a letter in the future.

Hello,

"When I switched the radio on, it would not work"
Why we use "would not" instead of "did not"? What's the difference between them?
Can I use "did not" instead?

Thanks from Alex

Hello Alex Fung,

The verbs 'will' and 'would' can be used to say that somebody or something is ('will') or was ('would') willing to do, and that is the way 'would' is used in this context.

This meaning often strikes English learners as a bit strange, as normally we don't think of an inanimate object such as a radio as having a mind (or 'will') of its own, but these verbs are used this way not so much to express magical views of reality as frustration when a machine doesn't work. That is probably why the text says 'it wouldn't work' (which expresses frustration) instead of 'it didn't work' (which doesn't express any frustration) here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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