writing complaints letters — examples of how to write good complaints letters
Here are simple tips, templates and examples for writing good complaints letters. This approach to complaints letter-writing is effective for private consumers and for business-to-business customers who seek positive outcomes from writing letters of complaint. The principles apply to complaints emails and phone calls too, although letters remain generally the most reliable and effective way to complain, especially for serious complaints.
Effective complaints letters (and any other way of complaining) should be:
Imagine you are the person receiving customers' letters of complaints. This helps you realise that the person reading your letter is a real human being with feelings, trying to do their job to the best of their abilities. Your letter should encourage them to respond positively and helpfully to the complaint. No matter how mad you feel, aggression and confrontation does not encourage a helpful reaction to complaints.
Good complaints letters with the above features tend to produce better outcomes:
• Concise letters can be understood quickly.
• Authoritative letters — letters that are well written and professionally presented — have more credibility and are taken more seriously.
• Factual letters enable the reader to see immediately the relevant details, dates, requirements, etc., and to justify action to resolve the complaint.
• Constructive letters — with positive statements, suggesting positive actions — encourage action and quicker decisions.
• Friendly letters — with a considerate, cooperative and complimentary tone — are prioritised because the reader responds positively to the writer and wants to help.
These complaints methods are based on cooperation, relationships, constructive problem-solving, and are therefore transferable to phone and face-to-face complaints.
See the customer service code of practice and tips, to understand more about the organization's view of complaints handling.
What are the tips and secrets of effective complaints letter writing?
(Please note that UK English tends to prefer the spelling ISE in words such as apologise, organise, etc., whereas US English prefers IZE. Obviously in your letters use the appropriate spelling for your particular audience.)
write concise letters
We all receive too many communications these days, especially letters. People in complaints departments receive more letters than most, and cannot read every letter fully. The only letters that are read fully are the most concise, clear, compact letters. Letters that ramble or are vague will not be read properly. So it's simple — to be acted upon, first your letter must be read. To be read your letter must be concise. A concise letter of complaint must make its main point in less than five seconds. The complaint letter may subsequently take a few more seconds to explain the situation, but first the main point must be understood in a few seconds.
Structuring the letter is important. Think in terms of the acronym AIDA — attention, interest, desire, action. This is the fundamental process of persuasion. It's been used by the selling profession for fifty years or more. It applies to letters of complaints too, which after all, are letters of persuasion. The complaint letter attempts to persuade the reader to take action.