by Stacie Heaps, Professional Editor/Writer (English B.A., Editing Minor)
Writing a complaint letter is often an undesirable task, but if it is done well, the end result can be very rewarding. Complaint letters can be used for the purpose of having products replaced or money refunded, for changing company policy or government legislation, for influencing the media, and so forth.
Often a complaint letter is more effective than a simple phone call or e-mail message. Furthermore, in many cases, the formality of a complaint letter can add a seriousness to the situation that will bring results. When writing your complaint letter, identify a definite purpose and outcome that you want to achieve, and indicate those ideas clearly in your letter.
Remember the Purpose of Your Complaint Letter
Keep in mind what it is that you hope to accomplish with your letter, and stick to the point.
Clearly make your complaint to the person(s) involved.
State plainly and directly your reason(s) for making the complaint.
Indicate what the reader can or should do to address your complaint, and specify how long you are willing to wait to have your complaint resolved. (Be reasonable.)
Explain why your suggestion or request for retribution should be granted (if you made one).
8 Tips for Writing Complaint Letters
Before writing the letter, make sure that you have the facts straight and that your complaint is legitimate.
Type your letter if possible. Use a spellchecker, or have someone proofread your letter. If it is handwritten, make sure it is neat and easy to read.
Generally keep your letter short and concise. Write short paragraphs, and almost always keep your letter to one page. However, do include all important facts. Include important dates or places (for example, when and where you bought the product or received the service), and include any additional relevant information you can (such as the product number or type of service).
While writing your letter, remain diplomatic and courteous at all times. No matter how justified your complaint may be, do not allow your letter to become angry, sarcastic, or threatening. Keep in mind that the person that reads your letter will often not be the person responsible for the problem.
Try to put yourself in the other person's place, and write your letter accordingly.
Include copies of any documentation relating to your complaint. Do not send original documents.
Keep a copy of the complaint letter for your records.
If your complaint letter does not bring about the results that you hoped for, consider writing another letter with a firmer tone, or try writing to someone higher up in the chain of command.
How to Write a Complaint Letter:
Start your letter with something positive in order to soften the blow of your complaint and so that the company or entity will be more willing to work with you. For example, if writing to complain about a faulty product that you purchased, you might begin, ‘I have been a loyal customer of your store for many years.’ Mention some of the positive aspects of the company or organization, such as the overall quality of the products or services, the low prices, the excellent customer service, and so forth.
Open the next paragraph with a sentence that begins to allude to the problem. For instance, you might write, ‘It is understandable that companies that offer a wide variety of electronic products would occasionally come across a faulty piece of merchandise.’ Then, in the next sentence, state your complaint. (Again, if you intend to do more than just complain and want the problem to be solved, it is best to remain professional and courteous. Do not sound accusatory or demanding.) After clearly stating your complaint, indicate what you would like to have done to rectify the situation, if anything. You may want to mention, also, the actions you will take if your complaint is not answered or the problem is not solved.
In the last paragraph, mention that you would like to continue to use the company's products or services, or to continue to be a customer of the store, or a member of the organization, or a viewer of the TV station. Then, suggest why it is in the other party's best interest to grant your request: you might mention the importance of maintaining a good reputation or keeping you as a customer, or you might appeal to their sense of justice. In other words, give them a positive reason to want to resolve the concern. As you close your letter, express confidence that your complaint will be taken care of. Finally, thank the company or other entity for handling your complaint.