How to Make a Successful Complaint


From the title of this post you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m quite an awkward person but I can honestly tell you that I’m not, well not unless I have reason to be! I really don’t go looking for opportunities to kick up a fuss and make complaints about people or institutions but unfortunately life just keeps giving me reasons to. I firmly feel that if you’ve genuinely been mistreated, been given wrong advice or have been left out of pocket by the actions of a person or company, then you should do all you can to make sure that you take full advantage of internal and external complaints procedures to get the outcome you deserve. The recent PPI mis-selling scandal has shown just how effective complaining can be under the right circumstances and has resulted in people reclaiming thousands of pounds in mis-sold payment protection insurance. When I make a complaint however I’m not always just after financial compensation, sometimes I just want to make a point and know that my point has been taken on board and is being given due consideration.

Big businesses however are notorious for complicating complaints procedures and sometimes you can feel like your just being given the run around or that your voice will never be heard. Without naming any names their are even some companies out there that seem to live completely by their own set of rules. In the majority of cases though there are certain things that you can say or do to force a large company to take your complaint seriously and also to do their utmost to resolve it.

Show Them You Mean Business

If you’re first trying to make your complaint via telephone, there are things that you can do from the very start of the conversation to make the person on the other end of the line know you mean business. The first thing you can do is to get the full name of the person that you’re talking to, not at the end of the conversation but at the beginning. It’s amazing how helpful people can be when they know you have their name. The second thing is to ask if the call is being recorded. Many companies monitor their customer service representatives by recording calls and this also allows them (and also you) to prove what has and hasn’t been said. If you have the name of the representative, calls are being recorded and you’ve reminded the representative of this,  you can be sure that you’ll receive the best customer service possible.


One thing you’ll need to do when making a complaint to a large company is to develop the attribute of persistence. Large businesses will often receive hundreds of complaints every day and their staff are well trained in the art of making you go away or making you feel that your complaint is not valid, even though it probably is. Many businesses bank on the fact that most of the people who call in to make a complaint will be thwarted at the first sign of resistance and the majority of people are, don’t let that be you! If you want to be successful with your complaint against a large corporation you’ll need to have dogged persistence, growling until you get your way. When I say growling I don’t mean that you have to be rude, often being rude can have a negative outcome, but you have to make yourself heard and not give up until you have a resolution which you’re happy with.

Know Your Regulators

Before you ring any institution to make a complaint be sure to do your research and find out if they are answerable to any external regulating body for their actions. Most financial organisations in the UK for example are regulated by the Financial Services Authority, otherwise known as the FSA. This means they’re obligated to adhere to a certain set of rules and if you feel these rules have been broken you can make a complaint through the Financial Ombudsman Service. Other regulating bodies include The Office of Fair Trading, Ofcom and there are many more. If you are armed with the knowledge of which regulating body an organisation is answerable to before you call or write in to make a complaint, you can be sure that your complaint will be taken seriously.

Put it in Writing

Many businesses only deal with complaints that are made in writing. Although many complaints could quite easily be resolved over the phone, many companies know that the majority of people won’t take the time to put their complaint into writing. Also most external regulators can only deal with complaints that have been made in writing so be sure to make the effort.

Escalate, escalate, escalate!

When you first phone in to make a complaint to a company, you will likely be put through to speak to a customer services representative. That representative will often be limited in what they can and can’t do to try and help resolve your complaint. If the resolution they suggest doesn’t satisfy you or if they fail to resolve your complaint at all, make sure you ask to speak to their manager or supervisor. They might try to say that their supervisor is unavailable but again this is where dogged persistence is required! Stay on the line as long as it takes to speak to somebody higher up the hierarchy or alternatively make sure that a manager call back is arranged, if possible at a specific time.

I hope this post helps you get the resolution you need when you next need to make a complaint be it to a financial institution, governmental board or even just a retail store.

Do you have any complaint success stories or are you a little timid when it comes to complaining?

4 Responses to How to Make a Successful Complaint

  1. If it’s a legitimate complaint then by all means stand your ground. If I don’t get what I want I escalate it as high as I can go but with a good manner. I’m never rude. Putting it in writing is one of the best things you can do, the paper trail lives on!! Cheers

  2. Love this post, Mr. Bulldog. We’re in the midst right now of dealing with a complaint issue, and have used the techniques above, and they really do work. A good company knows that customer satisfaction is crucial to success, but they must understand that a complaintant is seriously unhappy and not just blowing off steam because they have had a bad day. That’s why I like your tip about not being rude. If you’re being rude, the rep may not take your complaint seriously.

    • Thanks Laurie, hope you get your complaint sorted out and you’re absolutely right. Being respectful with the representative on the other end of the line will usually make them much more willing to help you resolve your problem. Some companies can be very awkward though which is where the regulators come into play.

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