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Complaint Letters

How to Write a Complaint Letter

Most of us really do not like to write letters of complaint. And why should we? After all, we write these letters because we received poor service, bad products, and/or ill (or unfair) treatment. We have already been harmed in some way, and on top of that, we have to take the time and effort to write a letter to persuade the offender to right the wrong.

If we have to write the letter, then we want it to lead to the desired results. The following suggestions will help you create a complaint letter that is more likely to be read and assist you in getting your problem solved.

Suggestions for Writing an Effective Complaint Letter

Address your letter to the appropriate person.

If possible, get the name and title of the person in the customer service department, consumer affairs department, or corporate office. If it is a small business, address the letter to the owner or manager. Many large retailers and corporations provide forms on their web sites that consumers can use to ask questions or discuss various topics including complaints. In this case, it is not really necessary to address the complaint to a particular person.

Keep your letter as short as possible.

Of course, you must explain the situation and state your grievances. But creating a concise (to the point) letter that is not too wordy or includes information that is not pertinent to the complaint will help you keep the word or page count down. If the letter is too long, it is less likely to be read from beginning to end. What is a suitable page count? In most instances, a one to two page letter is appropriate; the shorter the letter, the better.

Do not use emotionally “over-the-top” language.

When we are wronged, it is angering and hurtful. The experience may have inconvenienced us; been embarrassing or humiliating; cost us time, business, or money; or caused us to miss out on an important opportunity. So we may have every right to feel anger, hurt, or insulted. But the complaint letter should not be too emotional. Why? We want to be taken seriously. No matter how justified our feelings might be, we want the reader to help us with our problems. Therefore, we do not want them to tune us out or label us irrational.

The letter does not have to be ultra pleasant or devoid of emotion, but calmly stating the facts and feelings/thoughts about the situation is a better approach. Writing a letter that is rude, threatening, demeaning, or sarcastic might antagonize the recipient, which could affect the outcome. Listed below are examples of calm and more emotional sentences that might be included in a complaint letter.

Calm: “I am disappointed with the service I received.”

Aggressive: “Your ridiculous company has the worst customer service in the history of customer service.”

Calm: “I felt insulted by what the sales associate said.”

Aggressive: “Your lousy sales associate really pissed me off.”

Calm: “I am angry that the vacuum cleaner stopped working after one week of use.”

Aggressive: “How dare you sell me a piece of junk that didn’t even last a week.”

Calm: “The inconvenience this has caused me is upsetting.”

Aggressive: “Your incompetent company has inconvenienced me. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Use a traditional business letter format to write the complaint letter.

The complaint letter should follow the standard business format. It should be typewritten, if possible.

Complaint Letter Content

Describe the complaint.

A complaint letter should begin with a description of the problem. This includes all relevant details such as date and time that the issue occurred, location, names of employees involved, and product/service description. Provide all of the important details about what happened. Some would advise you not to include your emotions in the letter. But as I mentioned above, if you feel that you have been treated unfairly, misled, spoken to in a rude manner, or experienced some other kind of mistreatment, then the business should know that. After all, they want to retain customers not run them away.  So, if you feel the need to discuss your feelings about the matter, then do so calmly and tactfully.

Suggest a remedy for the problem.

If there is a desired solution to the problem, then ask for it (e.g., replace a product, receive a refund, or make an exchange).

Thank the reader for their time and consideration.

It is a good idea to end the letter on a pleasant note by thanking the person for reading your letter and helping you resolve the issue.

Provide contact information.

If you want a response to your letter, be sure to include your contact information such as mailing address, phone number, and email address.

Other Important Considerations

Include documentation.

If there are records such as receipts, warranties, or business policies that support your argument, then be sure to include them with your complaint letter. Not only are these documents evidence but they also show that you are serious and knowledgeable.

Keep good records.

It is important to keep accurate and complete records of your contact with the company. These materials will help you prove your case, and they provide documentation for further action through a consumer advocacy group, government agency, or attorney – if it comes to that.

The Goal is to Create a Letter that is Taken Seriously

Writing a complaint letter is truly a hassle, but these tips can make it a little easier. Additionally, they will help you create a letter that is taken seriously and leads to the desired solution.


Letter Writing Guide, Writing a Complaint Letter, http://www.letterwritingguide.com/complaint.htm

Copyright © 2011 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

© 2014 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

Chicago, Illinois 60615 (773) 405-5916