Complaints About Products or Services

Almost everybody at one time or another has had a legitimate complaint about a defective product or poor service. Yet surprisingly, most people don't complain where it makes a difference -- at the source. Instead, they'll spread the bad word about the product or the company to their friends and co-workers, and not let the company know where it's having problems.

Chapter 1

Take the Time to Do It Right

by: Consumer

Most reputable firms -- be it a financial institution or your local supermarket -- depend on repeat business and customer referrals for a large share of their business. They want to know if their products have been found faulty or if employees dealt rudely or ineptly with customers.

Needless to say, its in the customer's interest to get a positive response to a legitimate complaint. Here are some pointers to help you get results:

  • First, make sure that what you're complaining about can be expressed clearly and specifically. Prepare a short summary of the problem, whether you're complaining in person, by telephone, or by letter.
  • Pull together the records you need -- bills, service records, warranties, transaction receipts -- and make copies of the originals. Take the copies with you when you are complaining in person or enclose copies with your complaint letter.
  • Know in advance what you would like the company to do to resolve the problem. Do you want the product repaired? Do you want a replacement of the same product or another manufacturer's similar product?
  • A complaint about poor service should let the company know whether the bad service caused resulting problems. If poor service resulted in increased costs to you, specify what those costs were. For instance, if a plumbing leak was not properly repaired and caused water damage, you might ask the company to cover the cost of repairs needed.
  • Try to resolve the problem immediately by telephoning a company representative or visiting the store or service outlet like Consumer Prodigy. Have copies of your papers -- receipts, warranties, dates of service or delivery -- readily available. Write down the name of the person to whom you complained, the date, and the result, that is, what steps the company will take to resolve the problem.
  • If you're not satisfied at this level, request the names and addresses of customer service representatives and top executives of the company. If this information is not readily made available, consult your packing documents, warranty information, telephone directory, internet searches or local library.
  • Prepare a formal letter to these people outlining the problem, the steps you've already taken, and the resolution you're requesting. Include copies of the papers previously noted. Also mention a reasonable deadline for the company to resolve the problem
  • There's a much greater chance of resolving your problem if the complaint letter is sent as soon as possible. It lets the company know that you are serious about the problem and provides a dated and signed record of your formal complaint that you might need in the future.
  • For certain types of sales, for example, door-to-door sales of $25 or more, you have the legal right to cancel the contract within three days. Thus, timeliness in sending in your signed and dated cancellation form is particularly important if you are dissatisfied with the product or service.
  • Follow up with another letter if your deadline is not met. Mention further steps you plan to take, such as complaining to a local Better Business Bureau or government agencies. Enclose a copy of your previous letter.

Most reputable businesses plan to be around for a long time. They know that the key to their continued viability is customer satisfaction. Your complaints alert them to product and service quality control problems that can cost them future business. That gives you the clout to get your legitimate complaints properly resolved -- so don't be afraid to use it when necessary.

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, a competent professional should be consulted.


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