How to complain without feeling like a plonker!

Posted on : Apr 10, 2024

Generally speaking, as part of our Kiwi culture, we don’t like to kick up a fuss. We tend to just let things go, rather than making a scene. However, is there a way to complain nicely, and without sounding or feeling like a complete plonker? Let’s have the audacity to investigate how we can keep our heads AND get a decent outcome once we’ve mustered up the courage to raise a complaint.
Take a moment to gather your thoughts before you complain:
  • Know your goal: Consider what you want to achieve with your complaint. A refund, an apology, a change in policy? Having a clear goal will help you focus your communication.
  • Gather evidence: To strengthen your case put together an accurate description of the goods or services, the price paid, the date and place of purchase. It would help to write down who you dealt with and the nature of the complaint. Gather receipts, contracts, emails, or anything that documents your issue.
  • Cool down: Avoid complaining in the heat of the moment. You need to actively at least PRETEND to be reasonable. Take some time to collect your thoughts and organise the information. Acting rashly while your emotions are high won’t do anyone a favour! Remember that the person behind the counter is simply doing their job and have their own company rules to follow as an employee.
  • Consider the best method: Depending on the situation, a phone call, email, or written letter might be the most effective way to complain.
While complaining:
  • Be professional and polite: Explain the situation clearly and stick to the facts. Avoid personal attacks or emotional outbursts.
  • Focus on the problem, not the person: Don't blame or insult the person you're talking to.
  • Be clear and concise: State your complaint directly and avoid rambling. 
When making your request:
  • Be reasonable: Don't make outrageous demands. Ask for something that is fair and proportionate to the problem.
  • Be persistent: If you don't get an answer that satisfies you the first time, don't give up. Ask to speak to a supervisor or follow up with a written complaint.
  • Remember, it’s a good idea to keep a record of your dealings during the complaint process. Jot down the date, time and who you spoke with when you made your complaint.
Helpful sentence starters

Consider planning your conversation in advance. Start by explaining the problem, put a smile on your face, politely ask to speak to the manager or supervisor and use words like:
“I know this is not your fault…”
Politely and professionally express your feelings:
“I’m quite frustrated by this because…” or “I’m disappointed that…”
Make your request:
“I’m hoping we can find a solution to this, such as…” or “Is there anything that can be done to rectify this situation?”
Show appreciation:
“Thank you for looking into this for me.”
Finish the conversation by indicating that you will follow up:
“I would appreciate a response within (timeframe)...” or perhaps a firm “I’ll be following up in a few days if I haven’t heard back”.
If you know your rights, don’t be afraid to quote any relevant laws that may help strengthen your position. Look up your consumer rights, and use the word Ombudsman every chance you get! A few suggested websites to investigate are:
Complaining can be frustrating, but with the right approach you can walk away with a resolution all parties are happy with.