How To Compose A Formal Complaint Letter that Gets Results

You should assert yourself when companies provide inferior experiences. But you must keep the goal of a complaint letter in mind. Here’s how to compose a formal complaint letter to get desired results.

1. When to Write a Formal Complaint

A formal complaint is only necessary after you’ve given customer service an opportunity to correct the issue. It is an escalated attempt to right a wrong against you and/or prevent others from a similar experience.

2. Commit to Brevity

You have so many things this company could have done better. But over-explaining begins to sound like a rant. Others will tune you out.

A formal complaint allows you to perfect how and what you communicate. Outline your main points. Prioritize to keep the focus on what’s important. Omit unnecessary sidebars. 

3. Gather Important Information

Provide everything needed to follow up rather than expecting them to dig for it. Certain facts are essential to understanding the problem and potentially preventing it from happening to others.

  • Serial numbers 
  • Model numbers
  • Membership account number (when applicable)
  • Dates
  • Place of purchase
  • What’s wrong
  • When the problem started (1st use, three months later)
  • Names of people involved (if you have them) or descriptions
  • Date/time/names when you spoke with customer service
  • Documentation (screenshots, receipts, email chains, etc.)

4. State What You Want

Do you want a refund, exchange, or replacement parts? An apology? Rather than have the complaints department guess what would make you happy, tell them. 

5. Establish a Reasonable Timeline

Unlike a quick chat with customer care online, a formal complaint may take longer to consider. Set reasonable deadline expectations for resolving this issue.

6. Is This a Consumer Safety Issue

In some cases, you may alert them to serious danger. If you have a genuine concern for the safety of others, you may also want to contact the agencies that review product safety in your area. In the U.S., that might be:

Try to resolve something with the company first. Wield this power responsibly.

7. Make an Effective Case

Some issues have no simple solution. Remember, formal complaints will reach people who can recommend change within a company. You’re trying to make something happen that isn’t happening.

Legally speaking, the burden of proof is always on the plaintiff (you). You’re the one who has to make the case, not them.

8. Take Emotion Out of It

You may feel anger, betrayal, or loss. These will cloud your judgment.

If you’re thinking “I’ll show them how it’s done” or “why are they so stupid?”, that sense of superiority is ego. The ego rarely aligns with reality. Being egotistical is not an effective way to get someone to listen to you.

Avoid sarcasm which can be misunderstood to mean the opposite—especially in writing. Try to set all of these aside in favor of constructive communication.

9. Don’t Threaten

Be nice until it’s time not to be nice anymore. The person getting the letter probably isn’t the one who harmed you. They deserve to be treated humanely.

Try to get them on your side rather than jumping to threats of legal action and contacting agencies. These kinds of “threats” should be reserved for subsequent letters if the first gets no response or inadequate response. Even then, follow the above tips.

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