There will be times in your life when you’ll need to get an issue resolved. No one truly likes complaining, but on occasion this is the only way to bring up a concern to settle a grievance. Complaint letters can be very effective if used properly. Here are some guidelines to help you get results.
1.Pick your battles. People that complain frequently and about seemingly everything are never truly heard. If you’ve been ripped off with a store purchase, feel that you’ve been treated poorly, or generally have experienced an out-of-line transaction, then by all means a complaint is warranted.
2.Be specific. The more details you can provide about your transaction, the better able you’ll be in bringing your complaint to the forefront. If you are in a store, have a receipt, complete with time and date stamp. If your complaint has to do with a call-in transaction, have the name of the person(s) you talked to along with a record of what you asked and what you were told. Keep a log including time and date to add to your complaint letter. If your area of concern involves a series of events, include the details of each.
3.Determine what you want the results of your complaint letter to be, and be fair and realistic. Sometimes you’ll have more luck with asking for half of your purchase price back than saying you want the whole amount credited to you. Let the error and the amount it’s cost you help figure out what you’d like back. If your grievance includes a change of procedure, be specific in what you think should change. Keep your end goal in mind when writing the letter.
4.Send it to right contact person. Never address a complaint letter to a general mailing address, “to whom it may concern,” or even “customer service.” Find the correct individual at the organization in question and direct the letter to them. Then, copy their supervisor and the president of the company. Often you can find this information on the company’s website. If you can’t, place a call to the company and say, “I’d like to place a complaint about X, and would like to know the best person there to address a formal complaint letter.” Get the correct information for spelling of their name, title and address. Do the same thing to find out their supervisor’s name, along with the president of the company.
5.Use a professional and businesslike tone. Even though you may be hurt or offended at the way you’ve been treated, you won’t get the results you desire with nasty or childish remarks. Avoid sentences such as “you people” and never use derogatory words like stupid, ignorant, and dumb. Make sure your letter is professional and to the point.
6.Write in detail. Don’t use generalities. Instead, describe exactly what happened to you and how it inconvenienced you. Giving a reason for your complaint will frame the action in a new light. You may be bringing up a point no one considered before.
7.Provide your contact information. Never send an anonymous complaint letter. If you really want results, allow someone to follow up with you. Even if it’s just a phone call to tell you that they can’t make any changes right now, most companies will respond if you provide your email address and phone number, in addition to your mailing address.
8.Negotiate. If your original complaint is turned down, ask the company what they are willing to provide instead. Let me know you are serious about this complaint and will escalate matters if your issue goes unresolved. If the company offers you a different solution in terms of price, coupons, or gift certificates, think hard before accepting their offer. If you do accept, you should not complain about the matter again, as the organization has tried to correct their mistake.
9.Follow up within a reasonable amount of time to your letter, usually two-three weeks, depending on how large the organization is. Sometimes the large companies take longer to get a letter routed to the right person. Be patient so you can follow up with someone that will be able to have your letter in front of them and be willing to discuss it.
10.Escalate things if you don’t get an answer. When you’ve tried to contact the company twice with no result, it’s time to move up the chain of command. Do some research to find out board member names and addresses, in addition to the vice president of the division in question.
11.Draft another letter. Use a more stern, yet still professional, tone with the second letter. Reference the first letter you wrote and provide a copy. Once again explain your terms and what you’d like the company to provide. If necessary, adjust your request to include the inconvenience at having to follow up with them.
12.Be persistent. Sometimes repeated follow up is needed to get an answer or resolution. Don’t give up. When you finally receive the desired result, your efforts will be more than rewarded.