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10 Secrets For Writing Killer Complaint Letters

Complaint letters aren't always fun, but sometimes they needto be written. In many cases, if people don't complain, the problem agency at fault (i.e. company or government) won'teven know that the problem that you and others may haveexperienced even exists.

Ultimately, legitimate complaints, by even a few people,can (and often do) result in better service for everybody.Not only that, writing complaint letters can be personallybeneficial too!

That's right. Writing complaint letters can be an empowering and therapeutic experience! It allows one to take action instead of playing the role of a victim and "nursing" an ongoing resentment towards a company about poor service or treatment received. Once the complaint letter is written andin the mail one can "let it go" knowing that one has donesomething tangible and constructive about the situation.

Not only that, but properly written and handled complaint letters get action!

After I started writing complaint letters, I began receiving gracious letters of apology and contrition from senior executives including bank vice-presidents and VPs of marketing for giant corporations.

Getting those in the mail, felt one heck of a lot betterthan "polishing" an ongoing resentment and getting evenangrier the next time something bad happened. Sometimes Ieven get discount coupons and free merchandise!


Here are some strategies I have learned for writingcomplaint letters guaranteed to get 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 productor service that you are complaining about. I generally tryto write to the V.-P. level. Never go below Director levelif you want a serious response. Name and address informationcan be obtained from the organization's Web site or bycalling the company and asking for the name and title ofthe senior person who you should write to.

2. Don't Send An E-Mail

When it comes to sending a serious complaint letter to acompany or the government, don't send an e-mail, regardlessof what it may say on their Web site. E-mails are usuallyhandled dismissively by low level "customer service" people.If you want serious attention and action, the formal writtencomplaint letter is the only way to go. When it arrives inthe VP's office (yes, by snail mail!), it triggers abureaucratic process that ensures that the right peoplewill 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 goon and on just to make sure the recipient gets the point.Keep it as short as possible, but without diluting the factsof your message too much.

4. Give It A Heading For Identification

Place a heading at the top of the letter with informationthat the company or agency will relate to, such as youraccount number or customer number. Make it easy for themto find you on their computer filing system.

5. Clearly Explain The Situation

Make sure that you give all of the specific details neededso that the company or agency can verify your claim withoutyou having to get into an endless game of telephone tag withthem. Include specific dates, times and places, as well asthe names of people you dealt with. If you're not sure ofthese details when composing the letter, call them back andask for the specifics. (You don't have to say it's for acomplaint letter).

6. Use A Positive And Respectful Tone

I have found that the best approach is to use a positiveupbeat tone. Remember, you are writing to a senior personwho probably sympathizes with what happened to you. Yourtone should convey the message that you are the innocentvictim and you understand that the company wouldn't havedone 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 havebeen told to write to the Regional Manager of a program, itis often a good idea to make sure that someone in headoffice also gets a copy. I sometimes send a copy to customerservice 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 thoseareas. If you have a strong case that makes them vulnerablein one of these areas, use as much ammunition as you can toembarrass them in these sensitive areas. Modern marketingterms such as: customer relationship management (CRM),one-to-one marketing, most valuable customer (MVC), andcustomer-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 tolose customers, especially long-time customers. Seniormarketing people are well aware that study after study hasshown that it costs five to seven times as much to recruita 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. Makesure that you follow-up by phone or e-mail if you haveheard nothing in three weeks. Some companies will send youan acknowledgement letter stating that they are working onyour case and will get back to you within a week or two.

Use the above strategies and you are sure to get actionfrom your complaint letters. And, don't forget the oldtruism "the squeaky wheel gets the grease"!

To see a fully-formatted "real-life template" of a letterof complaint, go to the following link:

© 2005 by Shaun Fawcett

Shaun Fawcett, is webmaster of the popular writing help He is also the author of severalbest selling "writing toolkit" eBooks. All of his eBooks andhis internationally acclaimed f-r-e-e course, "Tips and TricksFor Writing Success" are available at his writing tools site:

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