We’re getting better at complaining about shoddy service and products

Know how to complain and you should get results says Rachel Moore. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Know how to complain and you should get results says Rachel Moore. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Satisfying highs don't come greater than the triumph of a successful complaint. Standing up to sloppy service and winning an apology or compensation is a victory to be savoured.

And we're getting better at it. More than 52 million people complained last year about shoddy service and products in the UK.

That's more than one complaint for every adult and rising – 30pc in two years.

Imagine 52 million adults telling service providers it's just not good enough and they could do better. That's some force to be reckoned with. People power in action. It's a welcome and long overdue trend to raise standards and expectations across all sectors.

We've endured slow inattentive service, been fobbed off with excuses about late deliveries, overcrowded trains, poor quality goods for too long, just because it's too much of a faff and cumbersome process to bother to make a fuss. We've put up with rubbish service, often with a conciliatory nod and a smile, because we're too polite or shy to make the challenge.

We've muttered 'it's fine', when it really isn't, for far too long.

But now we've discovered our voice and how to use it to get results. We're no longer intimidated to speak out about the substandard and tell traders, energy companies, councils, phone companies, banks, insurance companies, restaurateurs and numerous other service providers that they have let us down, challenging them to do better.

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It's all about seizing control; standing up for value for money when we don't get it. We've discovered the confidence to challenge and demand our rights.

Social media has done wonders for our complaining skills. Facebook and Twitter are the complainers' friend.

Reputation is all to a company, so a hefty slating on Facebook or Twitter can secure quick results. There is too much competition for a business to be complacent or dismissive in the face of a complaint.

The Consumer Action Monitor revealed that, in 2015, 18 million complaints were made on Facebook and Twitter, five per cent more than the previous years.

Successful complaining is an art. The secret doesn't lie in moaning and griping. An effective complaint is targeted, direct and delivered with charm and confidence. Whining and whinging is wittering into thin air. People who can't be bothered to make a proper complaint about appalling service of lukewarm bland food moan for days about the experience to everyone who'll listen for days after but never make a formal complaint.

Moaning gets you nowhere.

If something doesn't come up to your expectations, say so. If you've been ignored by waiting staff for half an hour while they catch up on gossip in the corner, say so. If your delivery doesn't turn up for the third arranged time, say so.

The knack is to keep calm, smile a lot – even on the phone a voice can convey a smile – be reasonable and assertive. A good complain isn't about moaning, aggression or confrontation. Charm, persistence and directness do pay off.

A direct email to company managing directors usually does the trick too. Google is your friend – most MDs can be found and, by finding the construction of company emails, you can make a good stab at the MD's address.

But millions still think it's too much hassle to complain, scared by a long process involving the ombudsman and courts, intimidated by a stressful process. If you don't ask, you don't get when it comes to an apology or compensation.

You've worked hard to earn the money to buy a service or product. Its provider owes it to you to be worthy.

Keep companies on their toes, never accept second best and let them know you're on their backs.

What are you waiting for?

You'll feel better and you're spreading the love. Service will just get better and better the more we complain.

• LORD BICHARD MAY HAVE A POINT – BUT THREATS ARE UNNECESSARY

Much has been said this week about suggestions that the elderly should sing for their supper to get their pensions.

To receive pensions, old people should be making a positive contribution to society, the former Benefits Agency chief said.

Lord Bichard suggested the same tough attitude to benefit scroungers should be used against pensioners. 'Older people who are not very old could be making a very useful contribution to civil society if they were given some incentive or recognition for doing so,' he said.

Pensions and benefits would be incentives for older people not to be a 'negative burden on the state' but make a positive contribution.

Of course it's ridiculous. To qualify for a pension, old people would have made contributions all their working lives. But having a purpose to each day and achieving something worthwhile is the motivation and tonic many old people need in retirement.

But too many sit at home not seeing the point of continuing to contribute, volunteer or make an effort to do anything in the community past 70.

Old people who do stay involved in community activities tend to be fitter, healthier, happier and more fulfilled than those who don't.

He might have a point in there somewhere to invigorate old people and give them a purpose, but without the absurd threats.