1. The complaint letter must be on good quality paper and printed using a good printer. Anything less will not be taken seriously. You must mail it in via the post office. Do not use email because then it will become indistinguishable from the hundreds of other letters received by the corporation. The bottom line is that you want your letter to stand out from all the others as a well written complaint by a serious well educated consumer and emails do not cut it. 2. Put your complaint letter on a personalized 'letterhead' that looks professional and that proclaims that you are 'with it' and a serious, educated consumer. This letterhead can be easily created by yourself with your word processor. I recommend a border around the page and that the paragraphs be justified on both sides to give it a professional appearance. And if you have a degree or some sort of designation include it on your letterhead. And do not put on your telephone number or email address. You do not want to deal with these people on the telephone - you will want to deal strictly by written correspondence. I was once the head of a department in a large corporation that dealt with consumer complaints and those complaints that were mailed in and looked professional received more serious attention because they looked and smelled like 'trouble.' 3. Before you begin your letter do some research and Google the corporation and your problem. Snoop around on the internet because maybe your problem is not unique and other consumers may have posted information on the issue that you may use to your advantage. It is possible that an internet search will reveal something useful and then you can write: 'I note from my research on the internet that you have encountered this problem on other occasions and have reimbursed the consumer. May I also be reimbursed?" 4. Start your letter on an up-beat note and with a compliment. 'I have been a faithful customer for 20 years. I have never had a problem with any of your products or customer service. However, I guess there is a first time for everything and the problem noted below took me completely by surprise. I assume that it is an isolated occurrence that shall be quickly remedied.'
5. In your letter stick strictly to the facts and do not embellish the truth or state anything that you cannot prove. Also resist the temptation to editorialize about corporate responsibility - the corporation knows it has a responsibility. You can raise this issue at a further stage but such pontification has no place in your first letter. It can be a distraction and makes the letter longer - two attributes which you want to avoid. 6. Clearly spell out the remedy you are seeking and politely ask for the remedy that you want. 7. Never, never, never allow your anger to show through. Anger, rudeness, snide remarks are the mark of an amateur but beyond that they give the first responder the hook on which to hang the label of a unreasonable consumer and to relegate your complaint into the category of an unreasonable complaint from which it may never emerge. And do not ask for a quick response. Asking for a quick response shows desperation to the corporation and many first responders may then just delay your response further because they perceive a weakness. The bottom line is that you have no control over the timeliness of their response even if you ask them to be prompt. So why mention it? I usually simply say, 'I look forward to your response in due course.' It is understood that every corporate response to a consumer should be prompt and if they do not respond in a timely matter this fact can be used to your advantage later when the file may be reviewed by a superior. Sometimes a history of tardy response(s) has pushed a complaint letter over the finish line when subsequently reviewed by a superior. 8. Do not anticipate their 'response.' If they are going to refuse you let them put their reasons clearly in writing so that you can respond to an actual denial. They may do so in a sloppy manner which will give you an edge. 9. End the letter the right way - positively and with a question. One ending that I always like to put in is the following: 'If I am in error on any of the facts I have noted above or, on any other aspect of the case I have outlined, please advise.' I like this ending because it put the onus on the corporation to respond comprehensively and directly to the issues you have raised. If they are simply
stonewalling you that particular type of request can be awkward for them to answer. Moreover, if they flub their response you may be able to use that fact later when the matter is reviewed by a superior. On top of that - if there is a fact or flaw in your argument it is much better that you learn about it sooner than later and confront it directly. You may be able to rebut it in the next letter but the bottom line is that you want to know as much as you can about their 'reasoning' for denying you the relief requested. A bad reason or a badly expressed rationale in a reply is like finding gold. And end the letter on an up-beat note. This is important because the middle part of your letter will necessarily be negative - the fact is that they have screwed up and it does not sound good. I suggest ending the letter in the following manner... 'As I have indicated above I have dealt with your company for many years and have never had a problem and I fully understand that within a large corporation isolated mistakes and problems are inevitable. I hope that we can resolve this matter appropriately and I look forward to hearing from you in due course." And then... 'Respectfully yours', - use of the word respectfully along with a letter that is emphatically respectful is what you want on the record. The use of the actual word - 'respectfully' - reinforces the fact that you are being respectful and reasonable... and if you get a badly written reply from an idiot first responder... the contrast will be stark particularly when down the line a supervisor looks at what you wrote and what his first responder sent back 10. Do not end the letter with a note of 'cc' to the regulator, your congressman, the Better Business Bureau, the Head of the United Nations, The War Crimes Tribunal, etc. and do not threaten to take the matter to a lawyer. Such tactics at the beginning of the complaint process are unprofessional and completely inappropriate and the mark of an amateur. On top of that fact it strikes a completely unwarranted negative tone and to many harried 'first responders' it is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The fact is that you are complaining about some conduct or problem that is the corporation's first notification that there is a problem. You must recognize that they are completely blameless at this stage.
At this stage you are giving the corporation the opportunity to rectify the situation without the intervention of any third party and to 'threaten' notification to a third party is inappropriate and sets a bad tone. The bottom line is that your letter is a first notification to them that something has gone wrong and you are suggesting that the matter be settled amicably at this stage. Under those circumstances a threat of any sort is inappropriate. You are giving the corporation the chance to act honorably. This point is very important and dealing with your issues in this manner is essential. 11. Think ahead to your follow up letters. Your letter to the corporation complaining about some conduct or deficiency may not be your last letter on the issue. For that reason the first or second letter is not the place to issue any threats. The first letter is to plainly state the facts and put forth a respectful well reasoned request for a remedy. And expect some 'push back.' Even if the corporation is inclined to satisfy your request they may very well push back and initially refuse your request - simply to see if you will go away. Why not? They have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. You must realize this central fact. Expect some push back and read their response carefully. Develop a short but carefully worded response to their response and restrain your anger. If you see a flaw in their argument for denial of the remedy requested then seize upon it and attack that point in a reasonable and respectful manner. 12. Cool down after you have drafted each letter and rewrite and edit your letter in an attempt to be as concise and clear as possible. Leave your letter for a day and think about it. It is amazing what idea that you might think of as you go about your day to day activities - that is when good ideas come - when they are not forced. Come back the next day and edit your letter carefully again to make it as short as possible and tweak your argument and reasoning. Remember the key to good and effective writing is re-writing. And then, if possible, get a second opinion from a friend who will provide you with some constructive and honest criticism. It is amazing what a fresh set of eyes can see. And if you have trouble with your writing... consider having a friend help you. A well-written letter is crucial to your success.
If you follow the above tips and send in two or three letters that follow the advice I have outlined then your letter will spell trouble to the first responders... trouble in the sense that at some point if they do not want to give you the remedy you seek they shall have to take your complaint to a superior because either they know or strongly suspect that you will take the matter over their head. And if that letter is well-written, attractively packaged, concise and respectfully lays out a convincing argument for redress then chances are you will receive the remedy you seek. You will get the remedy you seek because that supervisor will see your complaint as potentially a problem for him and trouble - particularly if you go over his head.