As a nation we're not very good at complaining, but if we really want to start getting the service we deserve then this has to change. Complaining can seem daunting, but with a few simple guidelines and a bit of practice you'll soon be as good as it as I am!

Don't Get Bolshie

Poor customer service is infuriating but venting your frustration on sales assistants will not help your cause.

Being communicative will though - look the person you're dealing with in the eye, smile and address them by name (if they're not wearing a badge, ask them). Use their name next time you're in store, and you will have more success in getting good service.

Go to the Top

Making a complaint in person is much like getting good service in the first place. It requires the same mixture of will, charm, politeness and diplomacy.

Don't go storming in demanding to see the manager - respect that the sales assistant has the authority to act on the store's behalf.

Be calm and to the point, take the faulty goods with you, including any packaging and proof of purchase.

If the sales assistant is unhelpful, state politely that you would like to continue to seek a resolution and ask to see the manager. There should always be a manager on the premises and they should be able to give you the assistance you need.

Don't Get Embarrassed

We need to learn to complain. Admittedly it's a little embarrassing, and it's not very British. We may mutter under our breath and opt to keep the useless item of clothing rather than have to suffer a till tirade, but complaining is the only way forward if you're not getting the service that you expect.

Vote with Your Wallet

If you get poor customer service and you don't get your complaint heard then leave the store without buying. In credit crunch Britain every penny we spend counts, and we need to make these fat-cat retailers realise that we mean business.

You should only be prepared to part with your hard-earned cash if you get treated properly and, if you don't, you should spend your money elsewhere.

Many brands out there are still making bumper profits despite the economic climate and can afford to start training their staff properly to give us the specialist service that we should expect.

Act Fast

Know your rights, don't delay in checking your purchases and act quickly if a fault materialises.

More Information

Want to know more about making a successful complaint? Take a look at the following advice from Consumer Direct:

Before You Complain

  • First of all, you should be clear about what you see as the fault in the item you have bought, and then how you want this fault to be resolved after you complain
  • Gather together everything you can by way of evidence. This could include photos or video footage. Try to keep in mind that you may have to go to court to obtain a refund, and ask yourself what evidence you would need to put in front of a judge.
  • Create a complaint diary - use it to list what happened, when it happened and who you spoke to. This will help to jog your memory when discussing your complaint.
  • Act quickly. Report the fault to the seller as soon as you can and confirm this in writing. Keep a copy for your records.
  • If unsure about where you stand, check your legal rights before you confront the trader. If in doubt, contact Consumer Direct for help.

Top Tips

  • Stay calm, even if you are angry
  • Be assertive without being aggressive. Be clear about what you want while remaining polite.
  • Back up your claim in writing wherever possible
  • Keep records: this includes copies of all receipts, letters, emails and notes from phone conversations. Never send original documents - send photocopies.
  • Complaining in person can be more effective: ask to speak to the person in charge and discuss the matter. There's no point in losing your temper or getting angry, especially if the person is not in a position to authorise a refund.
  • If you complain on the phone, make sure you keep records of who you spoke to, when the call took place and what was said. Always follow up your call with a letter.
  • Consider getting an expert's opinion or second opinion to back up your complaint. You may have to pay for this, but it should be useful if you do need to take legal action. But be aware that the courts often don't like people getting expert reports that they have not authorised and they may refuse to award costs for such a report. Also bear in mind there's a limit of £250 for such a report. You could ask if the seller would agree to co-funding an expert report and be bound by its findings.
  • Don't be put off. If you don't get anywhere the first time you complain, try again.
  • If you don't feel you are making any progress with your complaint, or if you need more advice, please visit Consumer Direct