A complaint letter is far more effective if it’s written in steps that outline exactly what 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 some not so favourable results.
There are a few reasons for both getting what you want and not getting what you want based on the situation and your approach.
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 is a means of communication unsatisfactory results from a service, product or situation that 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, in fact, complain and want a resolution to come from it.
Perhaps a complaint letter for poor service or food that you received in a restaurant also warrants a complaint letter.
Whatever your reason is for writing a complaint letter there is a right way and a 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
Customer Complaints Examples;
- Poor Customer Service
- Food Quality 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 result from just about anything ranging from being a tenant to buying a product you want a refund for.
As a paying consumer no matter who gets your money if you are not satisfied with what you are getting out of the deal then speak up.
Taking the first steps of a complaint to management or customer service is a smart beginning because these are the front-line workers.
If you find that you aren’t getting what you want after explaining your situation then you must take it a step 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 that should be there to support your complaint is advised.
If for whatever reason your complaint falls on deaf ears or it is not resolved to your satisfaction you should move on to step 2, contacting someone higher up.
For some of you, this may mean making a phone call to head office or someone in authority above the person of the first contact.
Sample Complaint: Missing Parts From Online Order
So for example, last week we purchased an $800 shower kit from a company in Mississauga, Ontario for our master bathroom.
Although I’m not ready to install it quite 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 make sure all of 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 in a box that was with-in the shower-head 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 had ordered the product online and if I returned I’d have to start the process over 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 may provide an address.
It’s often not too hard to find contact information if you do a bit of online research or make a phone call or two.
For my specific problem, I was able to send a complaint email which included call-back information.
With-in 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.
What I suggest is to write 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 have a look now at the seven steps to writing an effective complaint letter to get what you want the first time.
Include Contact Information
It’s important that you 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.
This means if you were at a specific store state the name, address and city and even the employee or managers name.
Perhaps it’s a product that you are complaining about then offer all important information pertaining to the item.
Have a look for product numbers on the box or online description of the item if purchased online.
At this point explain to the reader what the problem is and how it is affecting you.
So, in my example, I’m missing a part that I paid for so I am unable to 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 What Outcome You’d Like
I would also explain that my plumber has many jobs to get done and we need the part immediately.
By delaying getting the missing part to our house may mean that 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.
It’s important that you 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 that 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.
Whatever the situation 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.
By stating the concern and what you want as an outcome should bring you into some form of 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.
By doing so it also shows that you are serious about your complaint and that you want it solved as soon as possible.
Add A Timeline For Resolution
When you have a problem you shouldn’t have to wait for months for a simple response or resolution.
In your letter state the time-sensitivity of your complaint and when you’d like to see it resolved by.
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 by stating your ground it shows that you are taking this situation seriously.
Sign Your Letter
Don’t forget to print and 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
I’ve put together this simple complaint letter template to help get the process rolling for you and to take away a bit of the 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 such as this.
Other Canadian Resources
- Advertising Standards Canada
- Better Business Bureau
- Provincial Consumer Affairs Office
- Canadian Consumer Handbook
Discussion: What other tips do you have for someone who wants to write a complaint letter?
Leave your comments below.