How to complain to contractors effectively
Regardless of the old saying "The customer is always right," you've probably been the victim of lousy service at one time or another.
Not speaking up about bad, or good, service is a disservice to you and the company involved. It’s your duty to complain; a company cannot correct a problem if they are unaware that one exists. If the steps below don't resolve your issue, Angie's List Complaint Resolution Team will go to bat for you and contact the contractor on your behalf.
Effective complaining is a survival skill that anyone can master and everyone should. Here are a few tips to incite action for an unresolved complaint:
- When possible, complain in person. Letters can be dismissed (though it’s a good idea to do so, as well, so you have documentation!) and phone conversations are less direct. It’s more challenging to ignore or argue with someone face-to-face.
- Have the facts at your fingertips. Be ready with every name, date, time and price that relates to the complaint. Documentation, such as receipts and written estimates, are key in winning the complaint war. Also, be prepared with what steps you would like the company to take to rectify the situation (i.e. grant you a full refund, repaint the trim work, replace the cracked toilet, etc.).
- Act assertive, not angry. Starting out nasty will instantly put the other person on the defensive. A great opening line is to tell the company that you have "a problem" and are looking for help in how to solve it. Explain the facts without showing emotion (lip biting permitted).
- Go to the top. If the person answering the phone is not responsive to your complaint, ask to speak to the manager in customer service. Don’t antagonize this person; he or she will be more encouraged to refer you to the right "higher-up." Another hint: tell that person you will be sure to explain to the manager how well you’ve been treated.
- Always, always follow the Golden Rule. Treat the company with respect, even in the way you explain your complaint. As an example, if it appears a repair has not worked, rather than accusing the company of doing the job "wrong," let them know you’re still having the same problem and are in need of their help. If a bill turns out to be higher than expected, ask for a detailed breakdown of the bill before you accuse them of "price-gouging."
- Explain the consequences. If you’re not getting a positive response, explain what will happen if you don’t get action. If you have been a long-time customer, let them know and assert that they will no longer have your business. If you have referred others to them, point that out as well. If you're dealing with a larger company, ask to speak to the customer retention department. Most large companies and corporations have them, and they're a good fallback if nobody seems to know how to address your needs.