A guide making a customer service complaint


Published on

If you're unhappy with service you received or a product you bought, do you sit back and say nothing, or speak up?

According to the TMI/SOCAP Complaint Culture Survey in 2005, only 44% of customers said they complain "more than half" the time when they are unhappy with a product or service.

Too much trouble, lack of time and lack of conviction that anything will be done anyway were the main reasons people don't bother.

But taking the time to complain can be worth it, particularly when there is money involved. And who knows, the results might surprise you.

When out for dinner recently my sister and her husband were asked if they enjoyed their meal. They didn't.

Most people would probably say it was fine anyway, but they told the waiter what they really thought. They were pleasantly surprised to get 50% off their bill.

Granted that complaint was fairly simple, but it does highlight that speaking up can garner results. Say something rather than just grumble and walk away.

It helps if you know your rights before making an issue of something. Take a look at Your Refund Rights for tips. If you're still unsure get in touch with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) or your local department of consumer affairs.

Your next step is to contact the service provider directly and outline your complaint. Make sure you're clear about what happened, why you're unhappy and how you'd like the matter resolved. Staying calm, confident and polite will help your case more than taking out your frustration out on the person you're speaking to - tempting as it may be.

Keep notes on who you speak to, when, and what you've been told. Keep copies of any documents. If talking doesn't help, your next step should be to write a letter.

Outline the problem and the solution you want. Include any relevant documentation.

The ACCC website has tips on writing a complaint letter and even sample letters you can use as an example.

If you don't get a quick response, be persistent. Call the company to ask what is happening. With any luck your dispute will be resolved to your satisfaction by the company. If not you'll need to take it further.

External dispute resolution schemes apply to many industries.

For example, the Financial Ombudsman Service deals with complaints about banking, credit, loans, general insurance, life insurance, financial planning, investments, stock broking, managed funds and pooled superannuation trusts. If your issue is about telephone or internet services the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman should be your point of contact.

You can ask the company you're dealing with what the relevant complaints scheme is or try www.fido.gov.au.

Unfortunately you can't bypass the company and go straight to the relevant complaints scheme. Generally you have to give the company the opportunity to respond before you can take your issue any further.

Each resolution scheme has a different process so you'll need to call the appropriate scheme or visit the website.

A simple phone call should help you determine what you need to do. This all might seem like too much hard work, but you shouldn't let a company get away with bad service or ripping you off. If you're in the right your persistence will be rewarded.

Get stories like this in our newsletters.

Related Stories

Maria Bekiaris is editorial campaigns manager for Canstar and former deputy editor of Money. She holds a Bachelor's degree in business.