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Five ways to make a complaint effective

Stuck with a washing machine that conked out after the first week? Battling to get your voice heard?























All of us know the feeling. You’ve finally taken the big step and replaced your washing machine. But one month in, it stops working. All you want is for someone to listen to – and act on – your complaint. But that is often easier said than done.


Try these five steps to getting sorted:


1. Keep a complaint file

Start this fi le as soon as you notice problems with goods or a service. Make notes while details are fresh, using these specifi cs in your complaint document. Add reference or account numbers and copies of the receipt or invoice. Keep the originals. Take notes of the date, the name of the person you spoke to and what was said. If you’re posting anything, send it by registered mail. Save copies of e-mails.

2. Know what you want

Go into the negotiation having decided on an acceptable resolution and spell out your expectations, says consumer activist Ina Wilken. A refund or replacement, perhaps? Or an apology for poor service?

3. Stay courteous

Call-centre staff aren’t responsible for your problem, so keep your cool, says Wilken. Call-centre sta maybe told to hang up on abusive callers; if not, you may be embarrassed if your problem goes to arbitration and an abusive tape is played.

4. Set a deadline

Ask for a response within two weeks of your letter or two days if you e-mail, says Lillibeth Moolman of the South African National Consumer Union. Include your phone number and e-mail address.

5. Mention positives

Mention why you decided to do business with the company or how long you’ve been a customer. It’s relevant to your expectations and proves you’re not an opportunistic complainer, says Janet Askew of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals SA.


Read more on short-circuiting your anger.

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