Best Ways to Make a Complaint

PHOTO: A man is pictured complaining in this stock photo. Getty Images
A man is pictured complaining in this stock photo.

Your flight's canceled. The parking garage attendant dinged your driver-side door. Those shoes you ordered three weeks ago? They're still not here. Oh, and that chicken . . . it looks a bit pink in the middle.

At one time or another, we’ve all felt underserved by a waiter or brushed off by an airline gate agent. How can you voice your opinion or criticize and make sure you’re really heard? Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. She is author of “Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals.”

Here are her top five tips to help you complain more courteously and get faster results:

1. Be sure you’ve got a legitimate grievance.

When you’ve had a bad day, you may feel as if the world is out to get you. To avoid unnecessary conflict, step back from the situation and evaluate whether it’s worth your energy to complain. There’s a difference between a cheeseburger that was slightly overcooked and one that made you sick. Always give others the chance to rectify the situation before you ask for a refund or launch into a tirade.

2. Find the right person to contact.

Before the Internet, people sent letters to companies when they had a complaint or compliment. Today, a letter sent to a company’s customer service department may or may not receive a response. Your chances of getting a quicker response increase when you voice your opinion on social media. Try sharing your complaint on Facebook or Twitter and you will reach thousands of readers. The threat of poor publicity or a lost customer will most likely motivate the company to respond, and correct the problem.

3. Avoid foul language and threats.

Be careful not to go overboard when you express your frustrations. Keep your complaint brief and stay on point. Personal attacks, inappropriate language and unfair threats will only put others on the defensive. You’ll get much better results when you speak firmly but kindly.

4. Don’t feel forced to take down a bad review.

Once a complaint has been addressed, the company may ask you to take down a negative online review. If a company responds to you promptly and appropriately, consider removing the complaint. But you should not feel obligated to do so. A company should never stipulate that a review must be removed prior to issuing a refund.

5. Give a great review when it has been earned.

Complaints shouldn’t be the only feedback you provide a company. When you receive extraordinary service or someone goes above and beyond to help you, say so. Leave positive reviews on the company’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, speak to a manager about your positive experience, or directly thank the person who helped you. At the very least, you’ll brighten someone’s day.

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