How to Write an Effective Complaint Letter and Get the Result

When you feel you were mistreated by a business, it's often best to start with a complaint letter. If done correctly, you can often get action, especially if relatively small amounts are at stake.

How to Write a Complaint letter

  1. Identify yourself.

    If the Company you are writing to cannot identify you in their system (or database) as a customer or has no way of contacting you, the prospects of you getting what you want are questionable at best.

    In the "FROM:" section you should mention:

    • your name;
    • your address;
    • your phone or/and e-mail.
  2. Specify the current date.

    Here you should note the date your letter was written or completed.

  3. Address the letter to a person with some real authority.

    In the "TO:" section of the letter:

    • make sure you have the correct address for the Company. The address on their invoice might be different from Company's mailing address;
    • address the letter to the highest executive in the Company you can find (Owner, CEO, VP of Operations, Director of HR, and so on).

    Yes, the highest executive will most likely never read your letter, but it is his or her problem. You wrote to them to let them know about your complaint. If they made a choice not to read it - it is up to them.

  4. Use salutation.

    Salutation is a way of greeting that is used at the beginning of the letter. Use “Dear” before the person’s name, otherwise it may sound rude. For example, Dear Mr. Smith or Dear Ms. Smith.

    In case you do not know the name, Dear Sir/Madam can be used as a salutation.<
    How to write a complaint letter

  5. Summarize your complaint.

    In the "RE:" section:

    State your name, account number (with the Company) and desirable outcome from your complaint. Don’t forget to mention when you bought the product, where you bought it, the name and model of the product, and the serial number if you have it.  This will allow the reader to get a summary of your complaint without reading the whole thing. This is very important when your complaint is going onto the desk of a customer service representative who is under time constraint. They need to quickly understand what is going on and whether they need to do something on the spot, or escalate the issue.

  6. State the problem clearly. Be brief.

    In the "BODY" of your complaint clearly state why you are writing this letter AND briefly describe what happened.

    Most customer service reps are under time pressure. They might only have 3 to 5 minutes to resolve a complaint. These poor people may be punished if they process less than 20 complaints per hour. If your letter takes 20 minutes to read and it is heavy on your emotions but light on facts and clarity, no one will take the time to read it. You get the picture.

  7. State the desired outcome.

    State what you want. Do you want a refund? Do you want to exchange the product? If so, for what? Do you just want an apology?

  8. Describe what you are going to do if the problem is not solved.

    Highlight next steps you are prepared to take if your issue would still be in a pending status. For example, writing to a Company regulator, contacting Attorney General, filing a complaint with the licensing board/Better Business Bureau, or hiring an attorney.

  9. Set a deadline for the resolution.

    You should show that your issue is important and should be resolved urgently. Ten days is usually long enough to resolve a complaint. If you give them forever to work on this, they will take forever to work on this.

  10. Thank them for looking into this matter.

    Be nice and leave the door open for further discussions. Do not forget for closing salutations. For example, you can use such simplest closings as Sincerely/Yours Sincerely/Best Regards/Regards.

  11. Sign.

    After the closing you should not forget about signature, your name in typed form and title, if it appropriate.

  12. Include copies of all relevant documents, if any.

    If you have any documents that might be helpful in your issue resolution procedure, include copies of them with your letter. Keep the originals.

  13. Keep a copy of everything you send.

    If it's a big problem, you should consider sending your letter return receipt requested, so you can prove they got it, and when.

  14. Consider using Certified Mail from USPS or some other form of proof of mailing and delivery confirmation.

    Certified Mail will cost a few dollars more than regular mail, but if the amount of controversy is sufficient, Certified Mail will serve as a Proof Of Mailing and will eliminate all misunderstandings down the road. It is very easy for the Company to brush you off if they know you won't be able to prove you've ever mailed your complaint. You can send the letter either by registered mail, e-mail your complaint or both ways, just to be on the safe side.

Please keep this in mind when writing a complaint letter:

When a Company representative gets a complaint from a customer, there is only ONE main question a Company rep must answer: does this customer present any danger to our business, or is he/she just blowing off some steam?

Every time there are things like "I am frustrated", " I am quite disappointed!", "I expected more from you!", "I could not sleep", it is a clear indication that a consumer is talking purely about his/her emotions, and as soon as emotions are gone (probably next morning), this consumer will forget all about it and will not take any further actions.  You do not want to be in this category.

However, every time there is a well-structured non-emotional complaint, with clear demand, deadline, consequences for not complying, and such, the opponent will understand that it could hurt the business.

Write a complaint letter

These complaints usually get the attention of the decision maker and, ultimately, get resolved.

You want your complaint to be noticed and resolved, right?

Good luck and make sure to come back and File a Complaint on Pissed Consumer, if you don't get what you wanted fast enough.

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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