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Insider Tips

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A woman cheering after her complaints is resolved

The art of complaining – How to get your complaints resolved fast

No one likes a whinger, but we all have legitimate complaints from time to time. So what’s the right way to complain?

Before you pick up that phone or send that email, ask yourself how invested you are in making the complaint? Is the $50 watch that isn’t working properly worth spending indefinite hours trying to get your money back? The trade-off between your effort to complain and how much you value the item is what we call the complaining value.

Still want to complain? Here are some do’s and don’ts to ensure a better chance of getting a resolution.



If you can see there is going to be a problem with something you have bought or the service you have received, start taking notes sooner rather later, so you can build a timeline for a more accurate complaint.


Check if anyone has reported similar issues online; for example, if there’s been a recall or a regular fault on the item you’re complaining about.

Use the word complaint

A complaints department representative  

Customer service is the gateway to the complaints department. Ask to be put through to the complaints department, as it is more likely to be based in Australia, the staff are better trained and more empowered to resolve your complaint and they need to keep records. Don’t be afraid to use the word ‘complaint’ as many times as it takes to speak to the correct department.

Learn the lingo

Look up the terms Australian Consumer Laws, consumer guarantees, fit for purpose, and major vs minor fault on the internet and learn what they mean. If the company you’re complaining to can see you know what you’re talking about, you’re more likely to get a result. Memorise these three statements, as they will help you go a long way with most complaints:

    • Where there is a major fault, meaning the item or service doesn’t do what it absolutely should do, I as the customer get to choose the remedy - refund, repair or replacement.
    • Goods and services that I receive must be fit for purpose, as I explained to you that I need and delivered in a reasonable amount of time.
    • Regardless of whether that item is on sale, if it’s faulty, I can always take it back, no matter what your company policy says. The Australian Consumer Laws trump your company policy.

Be polite

We know you’re frustrated but you will generally get better results if you treat the person on the other end of the phone the same as you want to be treated. Remember, they are trying to help you, as much as their company policies and systems allow. Don’t make it about them.

Get to the decision-maker

Jo happily resolving complaints  

It’s not always easy to find out who this is, but the most efficient way is to use Handle My Complaint. Otherwise, call the company and ask to speak to someone who is authorised to give you a refund.


Use photos and videos

Any supporting material, such as images showing a faulty product or damaged in transport, will bolster the strength of your complaint.

Offer a 'yes' or 'no' resolution

If you’re clear about what you want - an apology, a refund, a replacement, a credit to your bill - the person dealing with your complaint is more likely to respond quickly. If they say 'no', you immediately know that you have to take the next steps.

Get agreements in writing ASAP

Even when you’re on the phone, ask the person you’re dealing with to send you that email while you wait. You’ve waited 20 minutes on hold; it’s worth waiting that three to five extra minutes to see the agreement land in your inbox. You certainly don’t want to be back on the phone for another 20 minutes chasing it up!

Always choose a refund

Always. Get your money back, then you can decide if you want to buy the same product again or something else. A lot of companies make it seem like you’re not entitled to a refund, but if it’s a major fault, such as your freezer not keeping food frozen, you most definitely are.

Check out our segment on Channel 7’s The Morning Show and find out how you can get the outcome you want for your complaints.



Sweat the small stuff

Lodging your complaint quickly is better than waiting to have all the detail and everything written in perfect grammar.. You need to get traction with your complaint, so see if it can be resolved quickly before you have to dredge up all the minute details of what has happened.

Pay before you complain

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.

Get emotional (even if you’re feeling it)

Keep the conversation constructive, whether it’s in person, via telephone or email. Explain your complaint without getting emotional. Be polite, factual and authoritative. Discuss the outcome or resolution that will make you happy.

Forget to set deadlines

a woman taking notes with her complaints  

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.

Take the first offer (unless it’s the one you wanted)

Know what outcome you want before you complain. You don’t need to accept the first offer; you can negotiate the final outcome.

Fall for delay tactics

Some companies use any or all of the below delaying tactics to try to persuade you to drop the complaint:

    • Delayed or nonsensical responses
    • Directing you to another department or organisation
    • Blaming you for the issue
    • Claiming yours is the first complaint of its type

Feel guilty for complaining

You have a good reason for raising this issue, don’t be made to feel as if you’re doing the wrong thing. Acknowledge that the person taking your complaint didn’t cause the issue. However, they are charged with helping you to resolve it.

Threaten to take it further

Saying those words doesn’t make it happen. If anything, making threats puts the person you're speaking with offside and makes them less inclined to help you. If you aren’t getting the response you feel you need, there’s no point in blustering about taking it further. Just do it.

If you're having a hard time getting the desired outcome for your complaints,  we can help. Lodge your complaint with Handle My Complaint and we’ll ensure your issue gets acted upon immediately.