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We all get frustrated at times in life. During these emotional times, many of us complain and in some cases, regret what we said. Other times we let our emotions guide our complaints and we immediately put the other person in defense mode and not trying to help us, but rather protect themselves. In this post, I am going to show you 4 questions you need to ask yourself before you complain. Following these will guide you into making the most of your complaint and ultimately come to a favorable conclusion.
How To Complain In 4 Steps
What Is Your Goal?
Before you complain, you have to know what your ultimate goal is. In other words, what is the end result you want to come from complaining? Do you want an apology or just want the other person to know how you feel? This will help you to determine how to structure your complaint.
Many times our end goal is to have a corrective action taken. But instead of taking the time to complain in a way that gets us there, we complain in a way that stops us from getting there. A good example is a trip my wife and I recently took. When we arrived at the airport and picked up our checked bags, my wife noticed that her bag was damaged. After a long flight (and a return to winter weather) she was tired and cranky.
She went up to the clerk working the counter and could have simply starting yelling at the clerk, letting them know how she felt. But she didn’t because that wasn’t the end goal. The end goal was for the airline to take a corrective action and take responsibility for damaging her bag. After a discussion, the clerk put the ticket through the system and we were on our way.
A few days later the airline called to inform us they found a similar bag and it was getting mailed to us. Problem solved by complaining the right way.
Who Should You Complain To?
Many times we fail at complaining because we start venting to the exact wrong person. When we are finished with our complaint, the other person tells us they can’t help us, we need to see so-and-so. This sets us off even more so. But, it isn’t their fault. It’s ours because we never asked if they are the correct person to solve our issue before we started to complain. We simply started to complain without letting them talk.
I see this all of the time with customer service agents in various industries. So often a customer just starts ranting and the associate cannot get a word in to stop them to let them know the right person to complain to is in another department.
So, before you start complaining to the first person you see with a pulse, remain calm and just give them the basic facts so they can point you in the right direction.
How Do You Complain?
There are a few ways you can complain. You can do it in person or in writing. Some people prefer face-to-face. Personally, I am better suited to handle complaints in writing. Not that I can’t handle a complaint in person, I just prefer it in writing.
While it is hard, if not impossible, to know how to complain in the public sector, you do know how to complain with loved ones. You should know them well enough to understand if you should put your complaint in writing or if it is better to do it in person.
If you do go the written way, be sure to write your complaint at a time when you are not emotional, or be sure to hold off sending the complaint until you have calmed down and had a chance to look over the letter/email. You could also have a trusted 3rd party look over the complaint before sending. The last thing you want to do is be mean or belittle the other person. That is going to get you nowhere. Plus taking a break allows you to answer the first 2 questions above and make sure your complaint is going to help you achieve your end goal.
Understand How To Phrase Your Complaint
As I said above, it is human nature to go on the defensive when someone begins to complain to you about something. Likewise, it is easy as the complainer to get caught up in the moment and go too far with your complaint and get more upset or potentially violent.
For this reason, you need to remember to begin your complaint in a friendly tone and remember that the person you are complaining to isn’t in some cases the one that caused the issue in the first place. Take my wife complaining to the airline clerk as an example. The clerk didn’t damage my wife’s bag, so belittling her and putting her down accomplishes nothing. But being kind and positive with her only puts her on your side and increases the odds of success.
A few years ago I worked as a customer service associate at an electronics store. I had to deal with many customer complaints. The ones that came to me in the manner I am describing above were the ones that I went out of my way to help out and find a solution with. The ones that came at me yelling and screaming at me, accusing me personally of selling them a defective item were the ones I didn’t want to help out. That isn’t to say I didn’t help them. I did, but I was only doing just enough to get them to calm down and get them out of the store before things escalated.
If you are complaining directly to the person that did something to you, you still need to be calm and positive with them as well. Being rude or mean is only putting them on the defense and they aren’t looking out for your best interest or helping you, they are more concerned with their well-being. Remember, it never makes sense to complain by yelling and screaming. Stay calm and be pleasant.
There is a strategy to complaining and if you can take the time to answer the above questions, you will get results from your complaints. You just have to remember to do your best to take your emotions out of the picture. This is the key for knowing how to complain. Remember, we rarely make wise choices when we are emotional, so it stands to reason we are not going to achieve what we want when we are emotional either. Calm down and think, then start the process of complaining.
[Photo Credit: martinak15]