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Insider Tips

How can we be of service? Let us count the ways. We actually mean service – unlike those who have promised it before and didn’t show up when it counted most. Consider these insider tips your key to consumer affairs.
Jo thinking of better ways to make a complaint

Complaining 101: The ins and outs of making a complaint

It's safe to say that most of us don't enjoy complaining. But more than once in our lives, we've experienced having a concern or an issue with a product or service we've purchased. And, when we do, we try to reach out to our provider with the hope that they will help us resolve it. Sometimes the provider helps, but there are times when they turn a blind eye to our experience. So, we've prepared this guide to help you make a complaint that's effective and doesn't take up more of your energy than it needs to. Just remember, we are with you at every stage of your complaint journey. Happy reading!

What’s the first step in complaining?

If you sense a complaint brewing, start taking notes and do the following:

  • Do your homework and check for others reporting the same problems.
  • Confirm if any recalls (even similar ones) have been issued.
  • Learn the following terms – Australian Consumer Laws (now national), Consumer Guarantees, Fit for purpose, Major v Minor fault.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when complaining?

  • Paying before complaining – Request a due date suspension for related outstanding payments until your complaint has been investigated. Always ask for confirmation in writing for whatever extension or suspension is agreed. Continue to make timely payments for subsequent bills if they’re not in dispute.
  • Getting emotional - Keep the conversation constructive (whether it’s in person, via telephone or mail). Explain your complaint without getting emotional. Be polite, factual and authoritative. Discuss the outcome or resolution that will make you happy.
  • Forgetting to set deadlines – Be specific with timeframes for action and/or responses. Get a commitment that if timeframes aren’t met, the issue will be escalated to senior staff.
  • Taking the first offer - Know what outcome you want before you complain. You don’t need to accept the first offer; you can negotiate the final outcome.

Should you email, call, or go in in-person?

It depends on the fastest way to get to the decision maker, which is usually the manager.

Calling is a great way to confirm who can handle your complaint. If you can get an outcome immediately - call. As a general rule, for issues with restaurants or retail, it is best to talk face to face. While for service providers, it is best to send an email so you can keep a record.

How can you use social media to your advantage?

social media icons and laptop for complaining

  • Try all customer service channels first - Not only does this strategy give the organisation the opportunity to resolve your complaint discreetly but if you don’t get an appropriate response, your attempts substantiate the organisations deficiencies. More fodder for your posts.
  • Choose the right channel - Find the channel with the most interaction and post on that one.
  • Use photos and videos - Including proof can help clearly illustrate the issue at hand.
  • Ask for a resolution - You can include your preferred outcome in the caption.

What are some tactics companies use to persuade you to stop complaining?

  • Delayed or nonsensical responses
  • Redirection to another department or organisation
  • Blaming you
  • Claiming yours is the first complaint

Is there any situation you should avoid submitting a complaint about?

Before lodging one, remember the difference between complaining properly and a whinge. When you complain, you want an outcome from your provider. It is best to still treat them with respect and use logic instead of complaining in an irritable fashion. Your provider is more likely to help you if you treat them nicely and provide facts.

Even if you don’t have evidence or proof, you can still make a complaint, but manage your expectations - you’re not likely to get a remedy quickly.

a girl complaining by giving a thumbs down

Don’t complain when:

  • You’re going to ruin the mood - e.g on a date. Complain in private or later.
  • Making the complaint is going to ruin your day more than the actual complaint itself.
  • If you’re complaining about food or drinks - it's best not to ask for a replacement.

Top tips to avoid getting overly emotional if things don’t go your way

Get a sanity check from friends and family to confirm if you’ve been hard done by.

If you have an issue with a product or service you received, lodge your complaint with us. We’ll help make sure you get the best possible outcome.