Top tips for making a complaint

Before we can consider a complaint, you must complain to the organisation involved to give it a chance to sort out your problem. These tips will help make the process easier for you and for 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 get your issue resolved, but you can go straight to a formal complaint if you wish.

Don’t delay

  • Complain to the organisation as soon as possible after the event. It is much easier to remember all the details. There may be a time limit in which your complaint must be lodged.
  • If you are not satisfied with the reply, you may have the opportunity 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 reply.

Make checks

  • Make sure you are complaining to the right organisation and the right department within that 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, and you want it put 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 to put your complaint in writing if you can. If this isn't something you feel comfortable doing, you could ask a friend, carer, family member or an organisation like Citizens Advice to help you. Make sure to 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 may feel you need to write in great detail but in most cases this is not necessary.
  • 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  provide evidence to support it. Make sure you keep copies yourself - you may want to keep any original documents and send copies of these with your complaint.
  • Keep notes of any telephone calls about the complaint, including the name of the person you spoke to. This may be important 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 to 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 tends not to lead to a better outcome and makes the complaint process more difficult for everyone.

Respond appropriately

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

Be patient

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

October 2021

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