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If you are feeling badly aggrieved about a consumer issue my general advice is that you should always express your complaint in writing, even if you only do so as a follow-up to a complaint in person or on the phone.

A seemingly obvious question that then arises is this: who should you address your complaint to?

The first step in making a complaint is to write a letter, email or complete an online form that will go to what most companies call their “Customer Service Department” – perhaps more accurately “The Complaints Department”. 

These recipients of customer complaints are overworked and probably underpaid so it is vital that you communicate clearly and respectfully if you want them to help you. 

That means no ‘Dear Sirs’ or swearing – you’ll not be doing yourself or your complaint any favours. You’d also be smart to keep the contents of your message short and snappy – communicate the facts of your situation and give a clear request for a reasonable resolution

Getting your complaint to the top of the pile

As well as being time-limited, the hard-working employees of customer service departments are facing huge influxes of complaints and may not even be empowered to deal with significant issues. Unfortunately, your missive may simply go into the huge pile of other complaints and will not attract any particular attention or priority.

In my experience, I’ve found that if one doesn’t get a proper response, the next step is to write to someone senior at the company such as the Chief Executive or Managing Director for smaller structures and companies. 

If you’re using Resolver, you’ll find that there is an escalation contact in your case file – so you can direct your complaint to higher levels of customer service. My preference is to do so by both email and hard copy letter.  The letter should address the person by name and be marked “Strictly Private and Confidential”. 

If you’re not sure who to send your complaint to do some research. It’s easy to go online to get information about names and head office addresses including email addresses – typically from the dullest part of the company’s website or even by looking it up using Companies House.

You can also use Resolver to learn more about the company’s reputation and send a complaint. Some companies will respond to you faster if you send a complaint via Resolver than if you go through their initial process. 

In my view, the communication should be personalised, perhaps humorous, or at least friendly in order to provoke a human response. What you want is a real reply from a real person as opposed to the sort of computer-generated hogwash. Also, bear in mind that customer service agents are often burnt out from dealing with negative feedback on a daily basis. Kindness may bring you more than adding to the pile of angst they deal with. 

I have found that one can get a better response from a less obvious main board director.  If I am complaining to Virgin, I would avoid Richard Branson, who doubtless has an overflowing inbox. Instead, I would write to say his Finance Director who probably has a deeply uninspiring array of emails to deal with on a daily basis.

Based on my experience, my overall impression is that the people at the top of large reputable companies really do care and that if you can get your message through to them this will invariably produce a much better outcome.

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