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How To Write A Powerful Complaint Letter (Sample Letter)

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A complaint letter is far more effective if it’s written in steps that outline the desired outcome you are looking for.

I’ve written a complaint letter or two in my time, and as a result, I’ve had some pleasing surprises and not-so-favourable results. 

There are a few reasons for getting what you want and not getting what you want based on the situation and your approach.

complaint letter sample
How to write a powerful complaint letter

Complaing vs. Complaint Letter

What is a complaint?

Any time you have a complaint, it may be an oral or unwritten accusation, situation, or concern that you have against something or someone.

What is a complaint letter?

A complaint letter communicates unsatisfactory results from a service, product, or situation you’d like resolved.

Complaint Letter Examples

How do you write a complaint letter?

Writing a complaint letter to management, for example, about a specific situation that happened on the job is very common.

When addressing a letter of dissatisfaction in such a manner, this is also called a formal complaint.

By doing so, you have documentation to say that you did complain and want a resolution to come from it.

Perhaps a complaint letter for poor service or food you received in a restaurant also warrants a complaint letter.

Whatever the reason for writing a complaint letter, there is a right and wrong way to get the outcome you deserve.

Complaint Letter Situations

There are so many situations that a complaint letter is a reasonable way to express your concerns as a citizen in Canada.

Other reasons you may want to draft a complaint letter may be;

  • Consumer complaint letter
  • Product complaint letter
  • Service complaint letter
  • Employee complaint letter
  • Tenant complaint letter
  • Grievance

Customer Complaints Examples;

  • Poor Customer Service
  • Food Quality is not acceptable
  • Damaged, Missing, or lack of Product
  • Wrong Price (Scanning Code of Practice)
  • Other (situational complaints)

7 Steps To Write A Powerful Complaint Letter

A customer complaint can range from being a tenant to buying a product you want a refund for. 

As a consumer, if you are unsatisfied with what you get out of the deal, then speak up.

Taking the first steps of a complaint to management or the customer service desk is a smart first step.

If you find that you aren’t getting what you want after explaining your situation, you must take it further by writing a complaint letter.

Perhaps you’re not the confrontational type and would rather skip a step and make a phone call to customer service or management, and that’s ok too.

Whatever you do, taking the initiative to contact the people who support your complaint is advised.

If your complaint falls on deaf ears or is not resolved to your satisfaction, you should move on to step 2, contacting someone higher up.

Unfortunately, this entails a phone call to head office or someone in authority above the person of the first contact. 

Sample Complaint: Missing Parts From Online Order

Last week, for example, we purchased an $800 shower kit from a company in Mississauga, Ontario, for our master bathroom. 

Although I’m not ready to install it yet, I found the product on sale and decided to purchase it for my future renovation.

In the meantime, I felt it was important to inspect the box to ensure all the product was there.

The last thing I needed was to get ready to install the shower, only to find something wasn’t in the box.

Sure enough, I was missing a part of the showerhead in the box.

When I contacted Rona about the problem, I was told I could return the item for a full refund and re-order it as it was online order only.

It had already taken over a week since I ordered the product online, and if I returned, I’d have to start the process again.

As a contractor or homeowner, that is not good enough, especially when you have tradespeople waiting to finish a project. 

Contacting Company Head Office

At this point, I decided to contact the company to explain the situation, but I could either write a complaint letter or send a complaint email.

Not all companies offer a contact form, email address, or phone number for consumers, but they may provide an address.

It’s often not too hard to find contact information if you do some online research or make a phone call.

For my specific problem, I was able to send a complaint email that included call-back information.

Within a day, I received a phone call, and after discussing the missing product and reviewing the receipt, they sent me the part via courier.

However, if there was a customer service contact number, you could also call and lodge a verbal complaint following the same process.

I suggest writing a complaint letter out first if you’re not comfortable on the phone so you have notes to read when you are speaking.

This will help ease any stress, and you will have everything right in front of you when they ask for specific details.

Let’s look now at the seven steps to writing an effective complaint letter to get what you want the first time.

Include Contact Information

You must include contact information in your complaint letter so your concerns can be addressed.

I also like to include any account information, such as employee number or ID numbers, that allows a company to search for a name or purchase (if applicable)

  • Full Name
  • Mailing Address
  • Phone Number
  • Mobile Number
  • Email Address

Explain The Problem In Detail

If you are writing a letter of complaint about a product or service, you need to be clear and concise about the situation.

If you were at a specific store, state the name, address, city, and even the employee or manager’s name.

Perhaps it’s a product you are complaining about, then offer all vital information about the item.

Look for product numbers on the box or online descriptions of the item if purchased online.

At this point, explain to the reader the problem and how it affects you.

So, in my example, I’m missing a part that I paid for, so I cannot have my plumber install the shower without it.

Explaining in the complaint letter that calling the store yielded unsatisfactory results as the job is time-sensitive is critical.

Be Clear About Outcome Expectations

I would also explain that my plumber has many jobs to get done, and we need the part immediately.

Delaying getting the missing part to our house may mean we don’t get our bathroom fitted on time.

If you want the part sent by courier instead of snail mail, tell them that in the letter.

You must say exactly what you’d expect the company to do to make you a happy customer.

If your letter is about employee relations and you are writing to Human Resources, be clear about what positive outcome you’d like.

Perhaps a meeting with HR and the employee or manager you are struggling with to resolve an issue is an idea.

You may also want to be moved to a new department and have stress-related concerns that you want to be clear about.

Explain everything in detail, including time, date, Product, situation, city, names, etc.

Avoid Sarcasm, Anger, and Violence

Avoiding this type of behaviour, whether it’s written or oral, solves nothing.

A key to remember is that the person reading your letter is not the person who caused the problem, so be kind.

Stating the concern and what you want as an outcome should bring you into negotiation with a company or employer.

Any of the above may also be grounds for termination, removal, suspension, or reprimand especially if the police get involved.

Include Relevant Documentation

If you have receipts, letters, photographs, phone logs, or any form of documentation or evidence to support your claim, include it.

Doing so also shows that you are serious about your complaint and want it solved as soon as possible.

Add A Timeline For Resolution

You shouldn’t wait months for a simple response or resolution when you have a problem.

In your letter, state the time sensitivity of your complaint and when you’d like to see it resolved.

I had a week before my plumber needed to move on to his next job, so I needed to highlight that in my letter.

You may not get what you want, but stating your ground shows that you are taking this situation seriously.

Sign Your Letter

Don’t forget to print, sign, and date your complaint letter to make it legit.

If you are taking a legal route, you may want your lawyer to read and sign the letter as a witness.

Complaint Letter Sample

Complaint Letter Sample Template 2

I’ve written this simple complaint letter template to help get the process rolling for you and remove some stress.

CBB subscribers can download the word document from my Free Downloads Resource Page.

For many people writing a letter can be daunting especially if it’s not something of a positive nature like this. 

Other Canadian Resources

Discussion: What other tips do you have for someone who wants to write a complaint letter?

Leave your comments below.

Thanks for stopping by,

Mr. CBB

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