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How to Write a Complaint Letter **Exercise suggested at this address: http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/cill/eiw/complaint_letter_constructor.htm Letters of complaint usually include the following stages: 1. Background 2. Problem - cause and effect 3. Solution 4. Warning (optional) 5. Closing 1. Background This section describes the situation; e.g. -I attended your exhibition Sound Systems 2007 at the Fortune Hotel (22-25 January) and found it informative and interesting. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the event was spoiled by a number of organisational problems. 2. Problem Cause: -We have found 16 spelling errors in the sample book. Effect: -This large number of errors is unacceptable to our customers, and we are therefore unable to sell these books. 3. Solution -I am writing to ask you to please make up the shortfall immediately and to ensure that such errors do not happen again. -Could I please ask you to look into these matters? -I enclose a copy of the book with the errors highlighted. Please re-print the book and send it to us by next Friday. 4. Warning (optional) -I'm afraid that if these conditions are not met, we may be forced to take legal action. 5. Closing -I look forward to receiving your explanation of …. -I look forward to hearing from you shortly. Politeness The tone of complaint letters should not be aggressive or insulting, as this would annoy the reader and not encourage them to solve the problem. Content -The content should contain enough details so that the receiver does not have to write back requesting more. -Legal action is not normally threatened in the first letter of complaint, unless the situation is very serious. Effective complaints letters should be: concise, authoritative, factual, constructive, and friendly. Imagine you are receiving a customer's letter of complaint. What type of letter would encourage you to respond positively and helpfully to the complaint? Good complaints letters have these features: Concise letters can be understood quickly. Authoritative letters - letters that are well written and professionally presented - have more credibility and are taken seriously. Factual letters enable the reader to see immediately the relevant details, dates, requirements, etc., and to justify action to resolve the complaint. Constructive letters - with positive statements, suggesting positive actions - encourage action and quicker decisions. Friendly letters - with a considerate, cooperative and complimentary tone - are prioritised because the reader warms t o the writer and wants to help. These complaints methods are based on cooperation, relationships, constructive problem-solving, and are therefore transferable to phone and face-to-face complaints. Write concise letters To be acted upon, first your letter must be read. The only letters that are read fully are the most concise, clear, compact letters. A concise letter of complaint must make its main point in less than five seconds. The complaint letter may subsequently take a few more seconds to explain the situation, but first the main point must be understood in a few seconds. Structuring the letter is important. Think in terms of the acronym AIDA - attention, interest, desire, action. This is the fundamental process of persuasion. The complaint letter attempts to persuade the reader to take action. The main point is, do not bury your main points in a long letter about the problem. Make your main points first in a short letter, and attach the details. Structure your letter so that you include a heading - which identifies the issue and name of product, service, person, location, with code or reference number if applicable. Then state the simple facts, with relevant dates and details. Next state what you'd like to happen - a positive request for the reader to react to. Include also, (as a sign-off point is usually best), something complimentary about the organization and/or its products, service, or people. For example: "I've long been a user of your products/services and up until now have always regarded you are an excellent supplier/organization. I have every faith therefore that you will do what you can to rectify this situation." Authoritative complaints letters have credibility and carry more weight An authoritative letter is especially important for serious complaints or one with significant financial implications. What makes a letter authoritative? Professional presentation, good grammar and spelling, firmness and clarity. So think about your letter layout - if writing as a private consumer use a letterhead preferably - ensure the name and address details of the addressee are correct, include the date, keep it tidy, well- spaced, and print your name under your signature. If you copy the letter to anyone show that this has been done (normally by using the abbreviation 'c.c.' with the names of copy letter recipients and their organizations if appropriate, beneath the signature.) If you attach other pages of details or photocopies, or enclose anything else such as packaging, state so on the letter (normally by using the abbreviation 'enc.' the foot of the page). When people read letters, rightly or wrongly they form an impression about the writer, which can affect response and attitude. Writing a letter that creates an authoritative impression is therefore helpful. Complaints letters must include all the facts Ensure you provide the relevant facts, dates, names, and details, clearly. Make sure you include all the necessary facts that will justify why your complaint should be resolved (according to your suggestion assuming you make one). But be brief and concise. Just the key facts, especially dates and reference numbers. For example: "The above part number 1234 was delivered to xyz address on 00/00/00 date and developed abc fault on 00/00/00 date..." Constructive letters and suggestions make complaints easier to resolve Accentuate the positive wherever possible. This means presenting things in a positive light. Be different by being positive and constructive. State the facts and then suggest what needs to be done to resolve matters. If you give a very negative, final, 'unsolvable' impression, they'll treat you accordingly. It helps for your complaint to be seen as an opportunity to improve things, rather than an arena for confrontation. Write letters with a friendly and complimentary tone It may be surprising to some, but threatening people generally does not produce good results. This is perhaps the most important rule of all when complaining. Be kind to people and they will be kind to you. If you use phrases like - "I realise that mistakes happen..."; "I'm not blaming anyone...."; "I'm sure this is a rare problem...", your letter will be seen as friendly, non-threatening, and non- confrontational. The use of humour often works wonders if your letter is to a senior person. Humour dissipates conflict, and immediately attracts attention because it's different. A bit of humour in a complaint letter also creates a friendly, intelligent and cooperative impression. If you brighten someone's day by raising a smile there's a good chance that your letter will be given favourable treatment. How to Write a Complaint Letter Include your name, address, and home and work phone numbers. Type your letter if possible. If it is handwritten, make sure it is neat and easy to read. Make your letter brief and to the point. Include all important facts about your purchase, including the date and place where you made the purchase and any information you can give about the product or service such as serial or model numbers or specific type of service. State exactly what you want done about the problem and how long you are willing to wait to get it resolved. Be reasonable. Include all documents regarding your problem. Be sure to send COPIES, not originals. Avoid writing an angry, sarcastic, or threatening letter. The person reading your letter probably was not responsible for your problem but may be very helpful in resolving it. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. Sample Complaint Letter Source: Consumer Action Handbook 2001, Federal consumer Information Center, Pueblo, CO, 82009, www.pueblo.gsa.gov Your Address Your City, State, Zip Code Date Name of Contact Person, if available Title, if available Company Name Consumer Complaint Division (If you have no specific contact.) Street Address City, State, Zip Code Dear (Contact Person): Re: (account number, if applicable) On (date), I (bought, leased, rented, or had repaired) a (name of the product, with serial or model number or service performed) at (location, date and other important details of the transaction). Unfortunately, your product (or service) has not performed well (or the service was inadequate) because (state the problem). I am disappointed because (explain the problem: for example, the product does not work properly, the service was not performed correctly, I was billed the wrong amount, something was not disclosed clearly or was misrepresented, etc.). To resolve the problem, I would appreciate your (state the specific action you want - money back, charge card credit, repair, exchange, etc.) Enclosed are copies (do not send originals) of my records (include receipts, guarantees, warranties, cancelled checks, contracts, model and serial numbers, and any other documents). I look forward to your reply and a resolution to my problem, and will wait until (set a time limit) before seeking help from a consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau. Please contact me at the above address or by phone at (home and/or office numbers with area code). Sincerely, Your name Enclosure(s) • describe purchase • name of product, serial number • include date and place of purchase • ask for specific action • enclose copies of documents • state problem • give history • allow time for action • state how you can be reached Keep copies of all your letters, faxes, e-mails, and related documents.