Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who died at the too-young age of 47, famously delivered a Last Lecture that inspired hundreds of thousands. He offered a thoughtful critique of the universal human problem of complaining. “If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things can work out…” says Pausch, “[c]omplaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
Although we can try not to complain so much, it is a part of life, and we might as well learn how to complain better.
If you are not happy with a product or service, do you know how to express your anger or frustration effectively to achieve the best outcome? What information should you include in a complaint letter or e-mail? What tone should you use when stating your case? Should you ask for a repair, a replacement or a refund?
Anna Timms, the author of Money Back Guaranteed, provides the following 12-point checklist for effective complaining:
1. Make sure your complaint is valid
2. Work out what you want to achieve
3. Always address a letter to a specific person
4. Include your details
5. Do your homework
6. Keep copies
7. Check your spelling
8. Be polite and reasonable
9. Name names
10. Don’t apologize
11. Set a deadline
12. Make sure your complaint arrives
USA.gov is a great resource to help you learn how to file complaints and complain more effectively to resolve common consumer problems. It provides clear, step-by-step guidelines for resolving product and service disputes. From advice on escalating unanswered complaints to tips on what information and documentation you should include in communicating with company representatives, the Website empowers consumers to address problems more effectively.
There are dozens of Web sites dedicated to customer reviews and complaints, ConsumerAffairs, BBB.org, PissedConsumer all provide a forum for aggrieved customers to share their experience to more general review sources like TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Yelp, and YellowPages. There are even specialized review sites for rental apartments, such as ApartmentRatings, Trulia, Zillow. It is important to see how companies face and respond to criticism online. No business is perfect, but the best businesses always put their customers and clients first and take corrective action when they see negative online reviews.
On USA.gov, you can find sample complaint letters and e-mails, information on where to file complaints—including contact information for corporate consumer affairs offices, your local Better Business Bureau, state and local government offices and federal agencies—legal help and other useful resources to help get your complaints across more effectively.