Complaint letters can be an effective way of resolving issues pertaining to a bad product or a poor customer service experience. The right letter has the power to garner appropriate attention and effective results. Complaint letters can also be the basis for future legal action, if necessary.
People who take the time to craft a complaint letter show they are serious about wanting to resolve a problem rather than just complaining. Giving the company a chance to rectify the situation may actually resolve any hard feelings. Here's everything you need to know about how to write a complaint letter that works.
Complaint letters are fairly straightforward. As long as you focus on the bad experience (and not your hyper-emotional state), you should be able to get your point across and, hopefully, help the company improve. Here's how to prepare a clear and concise letter:
If a company or employee acts in a manner that prompts a complaint letter, jot down the specific facts while they're fresh in your mind. Include the time, date and location of the incident, the name of the employee, and other pertinent details. This will prevent the information from getting lost. Also, recording the facts from an objective stance might put things into perspective.
Identify who should receive the letter. Many companies have customer service agents who handle written complaints. Of course, letters can also be sent directly to managers or owners. Typically, you can find the appropriate names and addresses on the company's website or via online directories..
Companies tend to take written complaints more seriously than verbal ones. Anyone can moan and groan, but sitting down and penning a letter of complaint often means the person is truly dissatisfied. Here are some tips to help you formulate a proper letter:
Keep it short, simple and to the point.
Make sure the language remains neutral. Focus on one primary goal: explaining the negative experience. Don't go off into the deep end with tangential commentaries on the company, silly details about the individual who offended you, or other unrelated matters. Rants or curses are not necessary and will not be received well.
Explain the situation using your notes.
Include information about the product or experience, including the date, time, and store or location.
Include specific product information, such as serial and model number, if necessary.
To make sure your complaint letter isn't just a wild rant, explain how the company should resolve the situation. If the requests are reasonable, the company will most likely make every effort to help.
Include contact information, such as your name, email address, and phone number, for further communication.
Make copies of receipts or warranty information to send along with the complaint letter.
Give the company adequate time to acknowledge and rectify the situation before attempting any other means of recompense.
For more on how to write a professional, buttoned-up letter, check out Business Communication Letter Writing.
Let's take all the information above and formulate it into a template that can help you craft the perfect response. Note the thorough detail recorded at every stage of the complaint process.
Mrs. Kendra Holland
456 Main Street
Albany, NY 12204
September 4, 2019
Luxury Purses, Inc.
123 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mrs. Stacy McCollum:
On Friday, August 30, 2019, my husband James and I entered your Fifth Avenue store to purchase a luxury handbag for our daughter. We were full of delight to treat her in such a way. It was 2:35 in the afternoon as we stepped into a relatively quiet lobby.
Upon entrance, we noticed a staff member sitting behind the counter; her name tag read Shannon. She appeared to be video chatting with her boyfriend on her smartphone. We can only surmise as much because her eyes quickly glanced in our direction before she quietly stated, "Brandon? Hey, Brandon, can you hear me? Two customers just walked in and I might have to go." After which, she giggled and said, "Yes, I know. It's our two-month anniversary tonight."
You'd think our entrance would have prompted her to put her phone away, but it didn't. My husband and I continued to browse, looking for a particular handbag, the Alma Mater BB. When we couldn't find it, we approached the counter, but were ignored by Shannon again.
After an elongated period of time, she finally put her phone down, looked over and said, "Yeah? Can I help you?" I told her what style handbag we were looking for, she glanced at the east wall, and said, "Yeah. We don't have that in stock." There was zero attempt to search for the product, offer to order it, or search through another store's inventory.
I must say, my husband and I were so discouraged, we not only vowed to never shop at your location again, we also vowed to move on from our hopes of finding an Alma Mater BB. After such an appalling experience, we went to Brand B Accessories and purchased an Excel Supreme for our daughter instead.
Surely, your training standards must be of a high standard. However, Shannon did not reflect those standards at all. We hope you'll speak with her, in accordance with company policy. I'd hate to see you lose any more high-paying customers.
Mrs. Kendra Holland
Download the fully editable PDF below and use it as a template for crafting your own letter.
Actually, there is no "art" of the rant. Rants are ugly. Yet, when heated, it's easy for any of us to go off the rails instead of remaining objective. Here are some examples of rants vs. helpful commentaries:
Rant: I was outraged by her egregious behavior and expect to learn she was fired the next time I return to your store!
Helpful Commentary: Melissa not only ignored us as we entered the store, but she also continued to watch a makeup tutorial by Jeffree Star on YouTube. How was this helpful customer service?
Rant: Congratulations. You just lost two paying customers with fat wallets who had a lot of money to spend!
Helpful Commentary: I, personally, will not be returning to your store. The next time I need to buy a luxury purse, I will go to Yves Saint Laurent over your brand. To avoid a future loss of customers, I hope Melissa's customer service skills are quickly shored up.
Rant: Are you kidding me? This is what you call quality craftsmanship? This shoulder bag is good for nothing more than scooping up dog feces.
Helpful Commentary: Within three days, the stitching on the left shoulder strap began to fray and, as I was walking my dog, the purse fell off my shoulder, spilling the contents all across my lawn.
Note that helpful commentaries are specific and encourage detailed course-correction. Rants are merely temper tantrums. Remain specific, professional, and make it your aim to help the company improve, even if you'll never shop with them again.
There's also a difference between a helpful bit of commentary pertaining to a bad product and a helpful bit of commentary pertaining to a bad experience.
If it's a bad product, again, be sure to include specific details (product number, serial number, and so on.) and provide a full account of how the product malfunctioned.
If it's a bad customer service experience, remove your feelings from the equation. Detail how the representative mishandled their job, as well as the after-effects of such a mishandling (without making any glaring threats beyond, "We won't be shopping here anymore").
Complaint letters can be tough. We have to remain objective, yet detailed and mission-driven. The goal is not to focus on our insult and injury, but to help the company improve their standards and rectify the situation. Clarity and concision will help you achieve this. For more, check out these 10 Tips for Writing Clear, Concise Sentences.