Friday, May 21, 2010

How To Write a Good Complaint Letter

I don't want it to sound like I'm forever complaining to companies and businesses because I am not. Quite frankly, I'm not all that picky and I also don't have oodles of extra time on my hands. However, there are certain things that are just unacceptable... like when the laundry detergent stained a whole mess of my children's clothes with purple spots... or when the tabs broke off every.single.diaper in one particular pack... or when the store was out of about 20% of the items on my list. These are things I feel justified in complaining about and, to be honest, most companies would rather you let them know about these situations rather than just go around town bad-mouthing their product.

I don't write tons of complaint letters, but I probably write a few each year. I have amazing success in getting really good responses. I believe that if you approach your criticism in the right manner, most businesses don't mind hearing from you. If you decide you are going to write a letter of complaint to a company, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it brief. The customer service departments reviewing these letter do not have tons of extra time on their hands. You'll make their jobs easier- and happier- if you get right to the point.
  • Remain polite and upfront. There is absolutely no reason to be nasty, vulgar, or rude in your letter. I lead off with "Dear Sir or Madam:" and use proper and polite structure throughout the letter. Even if you're really angry about something, try to remember that the person who will be reading your letter is likely not the person who ticked you off. At the same time, leave out all the flowery, "First of all, I'd really like to thank you for taking time out of your doubtless busy day to sit down and read what I need to say. It really means a lot to me that you are reading my letter and I hope that you will find what I have written to be valuable information..." Be courteous, but not long-winded.
  • Stick to one topic. If you're upset because you were treated really, really shabbily then that's what you should write about. The fact that you noticed the store could have been cleaner doesn't really help drive home your point... it makes you sound overly picky and whiny.
  • Be honest in your "threats". Do not say you'll "never shop there again" or that you'll never buy another of their products unless you truly mean it. In my recent letter to Aldi, I was very honest about the fact that I would continue to shop at their store... but I did mention that it made it hard for me to recommend their business to my friends and family when they were out of stock of so many products. Companies really like good "word of mouth"... finding out that I didn't feel confident recommending them is enough of a threat.
  • Don't exaggerate or make things up to try to score free stuff. I can't emphasize this point enough. Being dishonest in order to gain coupons or free products is never okay. It is unfair to a company to spend time researching an issue that was, in fact, contrived. Just don't do it.

I don't think you should be scared to let a company know what you really think... but that also leads me to my final point...

Write letters about good stuff too. I write probably four praise letters for every letter of complaint. I love to let businesses know about outstanding service I received or how much I adore a particular product of theirs. These letters truly mean something. If you've ever worked in a service industry, you know how precious it is to receive a letter commending you on a job well done. Don't be stingy with your praise.

Write on, my friends!

How about you? Do you take the time to let businesses know what you think about them... good or bad? What response have you received?

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.