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Friday, October 19, 2007

Tips On Getting Complaints Heard

The Better Business Bureau receives complaints every day. Often the difficulty in resolving a complaint is the procedure used. How do you know when to complain? Do you really have a complaint and is there anything you can do about the problem? Those are all good questions and the answer really depends on your specific problem.

The best advice is to start with trust; trust the business and always check it out before you do business with them. Of course, you can be a wise consumer and avoid most problems by knowing with whom you are doing business and their reputation and what your guarantee or warranty covers. And don't forget to save all contracts, sales receipts, canceled checks, owner's manuals and warranty documents.

The first rule is don't respond emotionally, which is easier said than done. Being emotional will only make the process more difficult and usually ends with poor results. If you are in an emotional state postpone handling the situation to a later time.

The second rule is do your homework and plan your action. If your complaint involves a contract, warranty or guarantee, read all the fine print that came with it.

Know your rights. Those are usually outlined in your contract or bill of sale. Know what you want. Be clear in your mind and in all your communications with the company about what you want to happen and your expectations.

Talk to a service representative first. If you do not obtain the results you want ask to speak to the manager or owner. Be reasonable and remember "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Being hard to deal with or rude only gives the company an opportunity to hang up on you or feel justified in its actions. Being pleasant usually makes this whole process easier. Ask the representative what they would do to resolve this problem. Most companies want satisfied customers. Listen to the company's side and possible resolutions; it could be better than what you are requesting.

If you are handling the situation on the phone, make certain to get names and direct phone numbers and/or email addresses, if possible. This will make the process easier should you have to call back. And don't forget to take good notes. Keep a log of all communications.

There are times to handle complaints on the phone and there are times to do so by email or regular mail. The important note here is to keep copies of all communications. If necessary send the letters certified mail, return receipt requested. This will cost more, but it will give you proof that the letter was received and will tell you who signed for it. Contact your post office for more information. In communications, use deadlines and be reasonable - allow time for action.

Sharane Gott, president of the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana

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