Reminder: Complaint Letters Get Results

Bad service is often a feature of modern life, but simply putting up with it means it will never get any better. It takes time and effort to write to a company expressing dissatisfaction, but it remains the most effective way of trying to improve things.

I've featured a couple of complaint letters in recent weeks, one about poor bus service and the other about Qantas' poor communication during the recent European flight disruption. Those posts proved rather polarising for some readers, with a few arguing that the complaints themselves were ineffective and that there was no place for them on Lifehacker. (I obviously don't agree with that, but a big part of the point of having a blog which allows comments is to allow different viewpoints to be expressed.)

What is worth noting is that in both cases there have been follow-ups and results. Qantas sent a letter (by Express Post, no less) from head of customer care Justin Hyams to every customer on the affected flight I travelled on, acknowledging that its communication processes needed some major improvement no matter what else was happening at the time:

I would also like to convey my sincere apologies for the significant waiting time you experienced at Heathrow airport and the lack of communication you received during the day. As you can imagine, the situation was continually evolving as we managed with circumstances beyond our control in London. However, I certainly regret that we did not keep you better informed during the delay.

As for National Express, while its response was rather less speedy, it was even more substantial: the company has offered to refund the fares for the affected segment, which seems an entirely appropriate response. The lesson for everyone? Letting companies know that there are problems remains an important step to getting better service and products.


Comments

    And a tip for complaint writers...
    Always publish your complaint letter on a very widely read blog. Then you will get a much better result.

    Most complaint letters receive NO responses.
    Crappy customer service extends all the way to head office these days.

    I think you will find the objection was where you were airing your complaints rather than the fact that you were complaining..

    I am sure that you will take from that/this what you will and not was was intended by the objectors..

    Which rather neatly brings me back to the point I made in objection to your original post :)

    Just got a check in the mail for $15!... cut myself on some food packaging and let them know.

    I recently moved to a new house and decided to get naketDSL through iinet (been with them for nearly 9 years). They made the same mistake 4 times taking 7 weeks to connect me. When I told them to send the BoB unit to my work rather than home address they recalled it mid transit and sent it again to my home address. All I have received has been a waived setup fee (which I was was going to get anyway) and a month off. I'm waiting for them to stuff up my first bill before I tell them to get stuffed and switch ISP.

    I complained to Coles Online recently about the lack of delivery slots in our region - I can try to order four days before I want it delivered and there won't be any available slots, sometimes longer. It took them a while, but they eventually tried to ring me a couple of times (when I was out - got an answering machine message) and then replied via email. They told me that the deliveries in my area weren't their responsibility but that they would enquire with the delivery service about additional slots. In the mean time their solution was to order two weeks in advance - or if I didn't know what we needed then place a dummy order for $50 or more to reserve a slot and then edit the order a couple of days before delivery with the rest of my order. Yeah, I passed on that because with my luck I would forget and then be up for $50, lol. But at least I got a reply. Its more than you get from a lot of companies.

    It's a pain when they don't reply, but you can see the effect if you still use their service later on. More than likely an employee gets stomped on & won't make a big deal of it.

    Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote a well thought out complaint letter to the ANZ bank. The stuff ups were pretty bad considering how they managed to layer them one upon the other. 3-4 months afterwards, they instigated "If you wait in line for more than 10 minutes, we'll pay you ten dollars". That went nation wide and I got confirmation.

    The trick is, never to say "I will not use or recommend your service again" amongst other things. It takes skill to get things done via a letter. I've had a number of successes over the years.

    I wrote to Qantas and received a $200 voucher for their flight being seriously delayed and impacting the business meetings I had during the day.

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