10 Secrets For Writing Killer Complaint Letters
By: Shaun Fawcett, M.B.A.
10 Secrets For Writing Killer Complaint Letters
Complaint letters aren't always fun, but sometimes they need
to be written. Often, if people don't complain the problem
agency (i.e. company or government) won't even know that the
problem even exists. Here are 10 strategies for writing
complaint letters that I have developed that are guaranteed
to get you attention and action.
1.Write to the senior person responsible.
It is important that you get the name and detailed mailing
address of a very senior person responsible for the product or
service that you are complaining about. I generally try to
write to the V.-P. level. Never go below Director level if you
want a serious response. Name and address information can be
obtained from the organization's Web site or by calling the
company and asking for the name and title of the senior person
who you should write to.
2.Don't send an e-Mail.
When it comes to sending a serious complaint to a company,
don't send an e-mail, regardless of what it may say on their
Web site. E-mails are usually handled dismissively by low
level "customer service" people. If you want serious attention
and action, the formal written complaint letter is the only way
to go. (yes, by snail mail!). When it arrives in the V.-P.s
office, it triggers a bureaucratic process that ensures that
the right people will see your letter, and will act on it.
3.Keep it as short as possible.
Preferably no longer than one page, two at the most. When
drafting a complaint letter there can be a tendency to go on
and on just to make sure the recipient gets the point. Keep it
as short as possible, but without diluting the facts of your
message too much.
4.Give it a heading for identification.
Place a heading at the top of the letter with information that
the company or agency will relate to, such as your account
number or customer number. Make it easy for them to find you on
their computer filing system.
5.Clearly explain the situation.
Make sure that you give all of the specific details needed so
that the company/agency can verify your claim without you
having to get into an endless game of telephone tag with them.
Include specific dates, times and places, as well as the names
of people you dealt with. If you're not sure of these when
composing the letter, call them back and ask for the specifics.
(You don't have to say it's for a complaint letter).
6.Use a positive and respectful tone.
I have found that the best approach is to use a positive upbeat
tone. Remember, you are writing to a senior person who probably
sympathizes with what happened to you. Your tone should convey
the message that you are the innocent victim and you understand
that the company wouldn't have done such a thing deliberately.
7.Send copies if appropriate.
There can be cases where it is wise to send a copy of the
letter to other parties just to make sure that you will get
some serious action. For example, in a case where you have been
told to write to a Regional Manager of a program, it is often a
good idea to make sure that someone in head office also gets a
copy. I sometimes send a copy to customer services or customer
relations, offices at the national level.
8."Shame" them as much as possible.
Companies that claim and advertise high levels of customer
focus and service do not like to be criticized in those areas.
If you have a strong case that makes them vulnerable in one of
these areas, use as much ammunition as you can to embarrass
them in these sensitive areas. Modern marketing terms such as:
customer relationship management (CRM), one-to-one marketing,
most valuable customer (MVC), and customer-centric focus, all
tend to get their attention. Also, using such terms makes you
sound like an authority.
9.Imply you might take your business elsewhere.
I always do this near the closing. Companies don't like to lose
customers, especially long-time customers. Senior marketing
people are well aware that study after study has shown that it
costs five to seven times as much to recruit a new customer as
it does to hold on to an existing one.
10.Ask for an early reply.
In the closing paragraph of your complaint letter, state
specifically that you are expecting an early reply. Make sure
that you follow-up by phone or e-mail if you have heard nothing
in three weeks. Some companies will send you an acknowledgment
letter stating that they are working on your case and will get
back to you within a week or two.
Use the above strategies and you are sure to get action from
your complaint letters. And, don't forget the old truism "the
squeaky wheel gets the grease"!
By Shaun Fawcett from his new one-stop writing help e-book
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About the Author
Shaun Fawcett M.B.A., is a Canadian-born and based writer, consultant, journalist, and publisher who has worked in many professional capacities over the years. He is also the Webmaster of the one-stop writing help Web site: www.writinghelp-central.com. Every week, thousands of people visit that site to obtain tips, advice, and resource information on everyday writing including: personal and business letters, resumes, cvs, reports, essays, and term papers.