Complaint letters aren't always fun, but sometimes they need
to be written. In many cases, if people don't complain, the
problem agency at fault (i.e. company or government) won't
even know that the problem that you and others may have
experienced even exists.
Ultimately, legitimate complaints, by even a few people,
can (and often do) result in better service for everybody.
Not only that, writing complaint letters can be personally
That's right. Writing complaint letters can be an empowering
and therapeutic experience! It allows one to take action
instead of playing the role of a victim and "nursing" an
ongoing resentment towards a company about poor service or
treatment received. Once the complaint letter is written and
in the mail one can "let it go" knowing that one has done
something tangible and constructive about the situation.
Not only that, but properly written and handled complaint
letters get action!
After I started writing complaint letters, I began receiving
gracious letters of apology and contrition from senior
executives including bank vice-presidents and VPs of
marketing for giant corporations.
Getting those in the mail, felt one heck of a lot better
than "polishing" an ongoing resentment and getting even
angrier the next time something bad happened. Sometimes I
even get discount coupons and free merchandise!
THE 10 SECRETS
Here are some strategies I have learned for writing
complaint letters guaranteed to get attention and action.
1. Write To The Senior Person Responsible
It is important that you get the name and detailed mailing
address of a very senior person responsible for the product
or service that you are complaining about. I generally try
to write to the V.-P. level. Never go below Director level
if you want a serious response. Name and address information
can be obtained from the organization's Web site or by
calling the company and asking for the name and title of
the senior person who you should write to.
2. Don't Send An E-Mail
When it comes to sending a serious complaint letter to a
company or the government, don't send an e-mail, regardless
of what it may say on their Web site. E-mails are usually
handled dismissively by low level "customer service" people.
If you want serious attention and action, the formal written
complaint letter is the only way to go. When it arrives in
the VP's office (yes, by snail mail!), it triggers a
bureaucratic process that ensures that the right people
will see your letter, and will act on it.
3. Keep It As Short As Possible
Preferably no longer than one page, two at the most. When
drafting a complaint letter there can be a tendency to go
on and on just to make sure the recipient gets the point.
Keep it as short as possible, but without diluting the facts
of your message too much.
4. Give It A Heading For Identification
Place a heading at the top of the letter with information
that the company or agency will relate to, such as your
account number or customer number. Make it easy for them
to find you on their computer filing system.
5. Clearly Explain The Situation
Make sure that you give all of the specific details needed
so that the company or agency can verify your claim without
you having to get into an endless game of telephone tag with
them. Include specific dates, times and places, as well as
the names of people you dealt with. If you're not sure of
these details when composing the letter, call them back and
ask for the specifics. (You don't have to say it's for a
6. Use A Positive And Respectful Tone
I have found that the best approach is to use a positive
upbeat tone. Remember, you are writing to a senior person
who probably sympathizes with what happened to you. Your
tone should convey the message that you are the innocent
victim and you understand that the company wouldn't have
done such a thing deliberately.
7. Send Copies If Appropriate
There can be cases where it is wise to send a copy of the
letter to other parties just to make sure that you will get
some serious action. For example, in a case where you have
been told to write to the Regional Manager of a program, it
is often a good idea to make sure that someone in head
office also gets a copy. I sometimes send a copy to customer
service or customer relations offices at the national level.
8. "Shame" Them As Much As Possible
Companies that claim and advertise high levels of customer
focus and service do not like to be criticized in those
areas. If you have a strong case that makes them vulnerable
in one of these areas, use as much ammunition as you can to
embarrass them in these sensitive areas. Modern marketing
terms such as: customer relationship management (CRM),
one-to-one marketing, most valuable customer (MVC), and
customer-centric focus, all tend to get their attention.
Also, using such terms makes you sound like an authority.
9. Imply You Might Take Your Business Elsewhere
I always do this near the closing. Companies don't like to
lose customers, especially long-time customers. Senior
marketing people are well aware that study after study has
shown that it costs five to seven times as much to recruit
a new customer as it does to hold on to an existing one.
10. Ask For An Early Reply
In the closing paragraph of your complaint letter, state
specifically that you are expecting an early reply. Make
sure that you follow-up by phone or e-mail if you have
heard nothing in three weeks. Some companies will send you
an acknowledgement letter stating that they are working on
your case and will get back to you within a week or two.
Use the above strategies and you are sure to get action
from your complaint letters. And, don't forget the old
truism "the squeaky wheel gets the grease"!
To see a fully-formatted "real-life template" of a letter
of complaint, go to the following link:
? 2005 by Shaun Fawcett
Shaun Fawcett, is webmaster of the popular writing help site
WritingHelp-Central.com. He is also the author of several
best selling "writing toolkit" eBooks. All of his eBooks and
his internationally acclaimed f-r-e-e course, "Tips and Tricks
For Writing Success" are available at his writing tools site: