The Art of the Fruitful Complaint

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to lodge a complaint. Rude service by a waiter or store clerk, an incorrect order, an extra-long wait to see the dentist or doctor, a bill that’s too high… the list goes on and on. What bothers us enough to complain about is often a personal, subjective response. One person may feel that a certain action deserves a complaint while the same thing might not bother the next person.

When we feel strong enough about an issue to make a stand about it, we want to know that someone’s listening and taking us seriously. But, sometimes, it can feel like a complaint “falls on deaf ears.” While there’s no right or wrong way to complain, there are some things we can do to boost our chances of achieving a positive or fruitful outcome. Here are a few tips that can help during the complaint process.

Helpful suggestions you may want to try…

  • Know the outcome you want. Before you complain, come up with your expectations for a resolution. What would remedy the situation for you? An even exchange? A store/restaurant credit? A store/restaurant discount? Be reasonable about your demands. The resolution should make sense and be appropriate to whatever the issue was that caused you to complain.

  • Keep your emotions in check. Anger and sarcasm can get in the way of obtaining the response we hope for when it comes to lodging a complaint. Focus on the facts and resolving the problem. Starting out without a lot of anger will help strengthen your side of the argument by putting everyone in a mood that’s more likely to bring folks together in some agreeable way.

  • Be polite and professional. Making your complaint in a businesslike manner will enhance your credibility. Listen attentively to the other person and respond accordingly. Always be cordial and respectful.

  • Keep it short and to the point. There’s no need to ramble on and on or vent about the problem. Give the short version of the facts. Make sure to include all relevant details that support your argument, as well as associated names, dates, locations, and times.

  • Include something positive. There’s usually something positive to be said about almost any encounter. Try to begin and end your conversation about the problem on a positive note, sandwiching the complaint in between. For example, you might want to start out by saying you are a longtime customer and end with the fact that you hope to continue to use the store, service, or restaurant in the future. If someone you spoke to along the way has been helpful or attentive, mention the individual’s name and actions.

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