Top tips for making a complaint

Before we can look at your complaint, you must complain to the organisation involved and give it a chance to sort out your problem. These tips will help make that process easier for you and the person dealing with your complaint.

Some organisations encourage you to tell them about your issue before making a formal complaint. This could be the quickest way to sort out your issue, but you can go straight to a formal complaint if you want.

Don’t delay

  • Complain to the organisation as soon as possible. It is easier to remember the details. And there might be a time limit to make your complaint.
  • If you are not satisfied with the organisation’s first response to your complaint, you might be able to take your complaint to a second stage. Again, do this as soon as possible and explain why you are not happy with the first response.

Make checks

  • Make sure you are complaining to the right organisation and the right department within the organisation. Usually, the head of the department that you are complaining about is a good person to complain to.

Tell them it’s a complaint

  • Tell them straight away this is a complaint. Say you want to put it through the complaints procedure. Ask for details of the complaints procedure and find out who will be handling your complaint.

Put it in writing

  • It is helpful if you can put your complaint in writing. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you could ask a friend, carer, family member or an organisation like Citizens Advice to help you. Write ‘complaint’ at the top of your letter or email, so there can be no doubt.

Be clear and brief

  • Cover all the relevant points but be as brief as you can. Avoid writing long letters or emails – you might feel the need to write in great detail but usually this is not required.
  • Make it easy to read by using numbered lists and headings to highlight the important issues.
  • Give your contact telephone and email details, as well as your address. Then, if the person dealing with the complaint needs more information, they can contact you and ask.

Provide evidence

  • Send copies of relevant documents – but only those that will help the complaint officer understand your complaint or give evidence to support it. Make sure you keep the original documents yourself.
  • Keep notes of any telephone calls about the complaint, including the name of the person you spoke to. This may be helpful later.

Check it through

  • Get family or friends to read your complaint before you send it – if they can’t understand it then the person you send it to is likely to struggle too.

Be clear about what you want

  • Explain clearly what you hope to achieve by complaining. But be realistic. Your request needs to be fair and in line with the problems you have had.

Be polite

  • Whether writing or speaking to a complaint officer, try to remain polite and calm.
  • Be assertive, not aggressive. Your experience of making a complaint is likely to be more productive if you calmly discuss the issues with the complaint officer. Getting angry often makes the complaint process more difficult for everyone and doesn’t lead to a better outcome.

Respond appropriately

  • Respond appropriately, if you are asked to. Read any letters and documents that are sent to you. If you cannot reply within the stated timescale, tell the complaint officer why and ask for more time.

Be patient

  • It might take some time for your complaint to be looked at. Don’t be afraid to chase politely if nothing seems to be happening to progress matters.

December 2023

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