Sep 1, 2008

How to write an effective complaint letter

A couple of years ago, I wrote about complaining to let companies know their service was unsatisfactory. Since I recently picked up a great tip from Money Saving Mom, I thought this would be a good time to revisit the topic. Here are my tips for writing a good complaint letter:
  • Always be polite. There's no reason not to be. Even if you are angry, it is not properly directed at the person you are writing to. And politeness is almost always more effective than rudeness.
  • Be brief. I've read so many long-winded complaints in the coupon forums I frequent, and I can't count the number of times I've given up halfway through. Obviously, I'm not getting paid to read the complaints, but even someone whose job it is to read them might miss an important detail or craft a solution that's not ideal because they ended up skimming the complaint.
  • Explain the problem clearly and with sufficient detail. This goes along with being brief, but it bears emphasizing. Be blunt, and be specific. I try to include enough detail to help the company determine what the source of the problem is.
  • If applicable, include product details. Generally, that means UPC code, expiration date, and any other data that's been printed on the packaging. I think including this information makes my complaint more legitimate, and also helps the company track down any ongoing problems on their end.
  • State the remedy you are seeking. This is the tip I picked up from MSM, and I really like it. For example, if you're complaining about a defective product, ask for a free product coupon to replace the defective one that you bought.
  • Send your letter via the company's web site. Many, if not most, companies now have contact forms on their web site. It's an extremely easy way to contact them, and it's free. This is by far my preferred method; in fact, I probably wouldn't bother contacting a company if they didn't have a contact form or email address, unless there was a lot of money involved.
  • Compliments work, too. I've never tried this, but apparently a lot of companies will send out coupons to customers who take the time to send them a compliment. If you've got a few minutes of free time or there's a company you'd really like to get some coupons from, why not send them a quick message? Especially if the product is a little pricey or a luxury item - you could mention that it's hard to work into your budget and a coupon would really help out.
What are your best tips for complaining?


Otter said...

I agree about being polite. That goes for verbal complaints. I understand that some people get very passionate and want to express their frustration. However, being rude is like an invitation to the customer service rep (or whoever you're talking to) to discredit what you are saying.

Plus it's just mean. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've gotten the best results from directing letters to the CEO, head of marketing, etc. (making sure to include the list of cc's at the bottom of the letter). I've found that customer service is limited as far as what they can do and/or offer.

Grampa Ken said...

I agree with sending your complaint letter to the top. Also mention the word ethics in your letter; I found that it can get them excited.

But be prepared for a pile of fluff in the reply if it's something they do not intend to act on.