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How To Make Complaints That Get Listened To

How To Make Complaints That Get Listened To

As with any other relationship, there are times when it might be necessary to make a complaint either to your subcontractor or your builder. The are many ways to make a complaint, but the whole idea of the complaint in the first place is for it to be listened to. Here are a few tips to making complaints that get listened to. They can be used in any kind of working relationship.

How To Make Complaints That Get Listened To

Document The Grievance

Start by making a note, either on paper or in your head of what you actual grievance is. Let’s use a fictional situation as an example. A Client is upset that the trades working on their renovation have left a big mess at the end of the working week, the client and family are living in the home during the renovation and are upset at having to clean up after trades.

So the client has been upset all weekend at having to clean up after the tradies on Friday afternoon. How do we then make this complaint so that the problem is rectified and doesn’t happen again. In this case the client should make a note, even take supporting photographs of the issues they are having.

Decide How You Would Like The Issue Resolved

Once you have a clear idea of what you issue is, it is important to decide how you would like the issue solved. In this case the client might simply wish for it not to happen again, in a more serious matter, the client might like for the builder to fix the issue. Having a clear idea of what you would like to happen to resolve the issue gives the person the complaint is made to, a real idea of what is needed to make things better.


Discus The Grievance

This step and the next are interchangeable depending on the situation at hand. Emails and text messages do not carry tone, it is important to discus the issue with the person you have a grievance with or their supervisor. In this case, it would be the builder. My suggestion is always to call either before or after sending an email, to make the builder aware of the situation and how you would like it resolved. Remain calm and reasonable, being cautious to listen as well as speaking clearly.

Follow Up With A Written Description Of The Grievance

Again this is interchangeable with the above step. If you have a strained relationship or are not a confident talker, try emailing first, outline clearly the issue, document with photos if necessary, and outline how you would like the issue resolved. Remembering that the idea of the complaint is to have the situation resolved, so be calm and reasonable.

Be Clear In Your Communication

This is important for all involved, especially when it is a professional relationship. Try not to take emotion into the situation, be clear with speech and speak calmly. When someone approaches you with an angry demenier, the other person is immediately on the defensive instead of listening effectively. Be careful not to attack, or become aggressive.

Listening Is Important

It is equally important to listen to the other side of the issue. This allows all persons in the situation to be heard and creates a more comfortable environment in which real solutions can be made. It will not always be possible to fix things as you would like them to be fixed, with good listening you will at least understand why.

Be Prepared To Compromise

Being prepared to compromise does not mean you shouldn’t have your situation resolved, it simply means that your resolution may take a different form to what you would like. In our hypothetical situation the client may wish for a cleaner to be paid for, however the builder might think the tradies cleaning up after themselves should be enough until job done. Both are reasonable, however having a cleaner come in weekly would add an extra cost to a job that has not been accounted for. Therefore the reasonable compromise here would be that the trades are spoken too in a toolbox meeting, given training around what is expected, and checked up on to ensure that the situation doesn’t arise again.

Complaints can be difficult to make, however using these guidelines, your complaint should be met with a satisfactory response. If not and your complaint is valid, approach the governing body within your state, however be sure to have made a documented attempt to resolve this with your builder, tradesperson first.

Have you been in a situation that you needed to make a complaint about? Did you have your situation resolved? Are you a good listener?

Nicole xxx






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  1. This is such good advice because it’s easy to get over emotional when you’re not satisfied. It’s so important to talk as well as listen, and you’re right, as with so many things in life, it’s all about compromise! Top tips… As always ?

    1. You’re so right Sammie, emotions get in the way and create a situation that is super difficult to solve. xx

  2. These are good steps to having a complaint heard and resolved in any situation, not just in a building scenario.

    1. Thank you Ingrid.x

  3. Yes, great advice. I love the idea of coming to the person with both the problem and the solution you’d like to see happen. I keep trying to get the kids to do this! Being calm and clear, yet still firm is rally important. This is not my forte at all so good to read reminders.

    1. It took me years in management to learn this strategy. It is nearly impossible to fix a situation when there is no solution offered, which leaves everyone unsatisfied.

  4. I had a bad experience making a complaint to a car company. I did it in private, in writing, by letter. Effectively got a “shut up and go away” (but in corporate speak) reply. Saw someone make a nearly identical complaint on Facebook and they got the most concerned and caring response. I believe in letting people fix things privately, because we’re all human and can learn from our mistakes (I sure will go public but only as a complete last course of action, like when my bank screwed me over at the end of last year) but that demoralised me a bit in how I was treated.

    1. I am like you Vanessa, I like to give the person the opportunity to sort the issue out for themselves. I have only ever made one complaint via Facebook (about a Woolworths store and its staff) and had a favorable response. Sometimes it is the only way to get heard, though I generally find when dealing with small businesses, the complaint is listened to and rectified rather quickly.

  5. I agree with Vanessa – some companies just don’t want to listen! But I think it’s a great idea to have a solution ready to discuss, it works well in so many situations. Great advice!

    1. You are both unfortunately right, many big businesses especially are not really interested in deviating from their usual way of doing business. Such a shame.

  6. Great advice Nicole.
    It is always good to have a clear idea of the complaint and an idea of what you would like as a resolution. Though sometimes it is really important to be prepared that there will be a resolution but perhaps not the way you want.
    I have had huge issues with Optus over the years but I always document the process and these days they are happy to give you email addresses so you can follow up with emails on their agreed resolutions to ensure that we are both on the same page. Only once have I had to escalate to the TIO but it was resolved very quickly after that.

    1. Absolutely, I think compromise is the key to successful negotiation, that and standing your ground, especially as a woman!

  7. Documenting is such great advice. I had a real battle with Telstra quite some time ago. I felt better knowing I had my evidence ?

    1. Absolutely! Especially in a big corporation where you are dealing with different people each time. ?

  8. This is a really good post outlining the steps without letting the emotions of the incident get a hold of you. It has to be well documented and dated from when each occurrence happened. No one wants to hear a complaint but it helps us grow and learn to do better next time. x

  9. Great tips, Nicole! I don’t often make complaints, but when I do I definitely try to keep the emotion out of it, and always wait 24 hours after an incident lest I say something in the heat of the moment that is not going to be helpful at all.

    1. Waiting is a great tip! Thank you for sharing. xx

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