How To Write a Complaint Letter: Consumer Complaint

Get Tips for Writing Complaint Letters

Man reporting

Now that customer service is little more than a memory, the complaint letter serves as our direct line to report problems to the powers that be. Customer complaint letters may be written about rude staff, inadequate goods or services, or about general policies that are making things difficult. However, there is a right and a wrong way to approach this sort of letter. The right letter calls attention to the problem. The wrong letter gets thrown into the trash. 

Here's how to make sure your letter stays on the desk:

  1. Calm down. When a person is angry enough to craft a complaint letter, the letter may be more of a way to vent anger and frustration than to tell the higher-ups about a legitimate problem. For this reason, it may be a good idea to wait a day or two before sitting down to begin. Emotions should be left out of any your letter if it is to be effective.
  2. State the problem. Chronicle the problem in detail, with neither embellishment nor a long and winding intro. A page of details leading up to the problem will lose the interest of the person you are trying to inform. State the problem clearly and with objectivity if possible. If the problem was a purchase, state the date the item was purchased and anything else of significance surrounding the purchase, before describing what went wrong.
  3. State the effects of the problem. Once you have identified the problem, you can go on to describe what the effects have been, both short- and long-term. If the problem is monetary, describe what costs have been incurred in conjunction with the problem.
  4. Come up with a solution. If the problem is to be seen as rational and legitimate, it needs a clear solution that can be accomplished by the one you are sending the letter to. The solution may be firing a rude staff member, cleaning the aisles of the store, changing a return policy or whatever you believe would be an acceptable solution to both vindicate you as a complainant and keep the situation from occurring again. Offering a variety of possible solutions to the problem is a way to give the recipient some control over the outcome while still acting to solve the presented problem. If the recipient can understand what solutions you feel would best address the problem, he or she can better tailor a solution to fit your expectations.
  5. Give contact information. Unless your letter is intentionally anonymous, provide clear contact information such as a phone number so that the letter's recipient has a chance to respond.

Remember, you're the costumer so don't feel bad about expressing your opinion-it's sort of your responsibility if the service is poor. 
A customer complaint letter should be written in business letter format, with the company's contact information at the top left. This is followed by a greeting using the recipient's name, if available. The body of the letter should be short and to the point, followed by a closing and your name. Leave three to four spaces in between the closing and where your name is printed. In between those two items, sign your name. The entire letter should be no more than a page in order to keep the attention of the recipient.


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