When you can't get your service provider to address your complaint, Complaintline helps with how to complain and get results
Start by going back to the service provider
You must always give the service provider that you want to complain about a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem. In fact, most external dispute resolution offices will not accept your complaint unless you can show that you have done this. If your first approach to the service provider is not successful, go higher. If the service provider is part of a franchise or larger group, you can also contact the head office.
Some steps to guide you
1. Facts, records and notes
Get your facts right. Keep records of what happened; keep copies of any letters, dockets and receipts; keep a note of phone calls. Be prepared before you call.
2. Ring directly
Ring the person, company, organisation or agency directly. Email can work too of course, but we still like the direct approach to try to speak with a real person (despite the inevitable call centre queues).
3. Complaint handling policy and procedures
Ask what the company's complaints policy and procedures are, so you can work out who to contact if you are getting nowhere. A company that is serious about resolving customer complaints will have one, and it is good to know this information from the beginning.
4. Keep your cool
Put your case calmly and clearly.
5. The importance of good notes
Keep notes of everything you are told, by whom and when.
6. Go higher
If you aren't happy with what you are told, escalate it—that means speaking with someone higher up. This might be a supervisor or manager, or the complaints or customer relations area.
7. Get names and times
If you cannot speak with someone higher up then and there, ask for their name, ask for them to give you a call back and get an undertaking on when that is likely to happen. If they don't return your call, you then know who to ask for if you have to ring again (or who to send a letter, fax or email to if you have to).
8. Where to after that?
If you are still not happy after putting your complaint to this more senior person, ask what your further options are.
9. Putting it in writing
If you need to write a letter detailing your complaint and are not sure how to get started, you can use our sample letter as a guide. It's often a good idea to draft one anyway as it will help you get your thoughts in order.
10. External dispute resolution offices
Ask about the external office that can help resolve the dispute if you and the service provider can't agree on a resolution.
Getting external dispute resolution help
If you have tried to sort the problem out with person, organisation, company or service directly and you are still unhappy, use Complaintline to contact someone who can help you.
Be aware of these things
1. Lodging your complaint
The way you make your complaint will be different from office to office. Some offices still take complaints in writing only. Others are set up for you to lodge your complaint over the phone or online. Some cannot take your complaint until the company you are complaining about has had a certain time to fix the problem.
2. The cost to you
Most offices will not charge you, but some do. You should ask.
3. Codes of practice and legislation
Many industries work to an industry code of practice or code of conduct. Many are also covered by legislation. By reading the code and/or legislation that covers the industry for the service providers you are complaining about, you will have a better idea of your rights and the service provider's obligations. These are important documents. Look for links to them on our site.
4. What other help can you get?
You can use our sample complaint letter format as a guide if you need to put your complaint in writing. Some external dispute resolution offices have staff who will help you put your complaint together—ask about this. You will still need all of the information you had when you contacted the service provider. You may also be able to get help to lodge your complaint from some community agencies.
5. Let the service provider know you are going to contact the external dispute resolution office
After you have contacted the external dispute resolution office, it's a good idea to send a copy of your complaint (or a note saying that you have complained) to the service provider you are in dispute with. Most service providers would prefer to sort it out themselves, so, if they know you have complained to an external office, they are likely to move more quickly to fix your problem.
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