How to Lodge a Complaint and Write a Letter of Complaint
Sometimes things don't go right and you really want to make sure someone is aware of the issue. Here's the right (and wrong) way to complain.
You opened a packet and discovered your favourite food is a different colour to normal - or stuck in clumps. Or you ordered in an item at your local store and after a week of waiting - you got the wrong item! When is the right time to complain? Is it worth it? This guide is here to help you decide.
Why you should complain
Statistically, the value of a letter from a customer is considered to be worth the opinion of 100 customers who didn't write. So your letter may do more than you expected!
Chances are, if you don't complain, other customers may not bother either and the company may not know there was a problem. Through this the company may end up losing sales without even knowing the reason why. So in the end, your complaint can help both the company and other customers.
Often, when you send a valid letter of complaint, the company will send you an apology letter as well as an item or gift voucher.
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Of course, to get the result you want, you need to follow the correct etiquette. Here's some tips for starters:
- Don't complain to someone low in the chain like a cashier or storeperson. They may not be able to handle it correctly and it'll probably just make their day bad when it isn't their fault.
- If possible, put something in writing. This way you don't need to put anyone on the offensive face to face and there is more chance it will get dealt with correctly since the complaint won't be based on someone's memory of what your problem was.
- Don't overdo the background. If you found all your breakfast cereal clumped together, you don't need to write how you had to get up at 6am that day, you ended up paying $4.99 for breakfast on the way to work and how it effected your important speech. Be succint and to the point.
When I was a child we purchased a box of wheeties that were all clumped together in the bottom of the box. We sent the packet to the company with a letter of complaint. They sent back two free boxes.
For my wedding, I had a bridesmaid who lived in another town. The chain where I purchased the bridesmaid dresses promised if I gave my friend a certain code, she could buy the dress in her town. She turned up at my wedding in the same colour dress but in a completely different style. I sent an email and because of that, the stores have bought in a new system of organization for wedding parties.
Complaining about a Person
Before you make a complaint about a person, you should take the following into consideration:
- Were they rude or just abrupt? If the person had a lot to accomplish that day or was in the middle of serving a customer, they may just have been in a hurry.
- Were they having a bad day? You don't know their background - their dog may have died or they could have home problems. Unless you have a problem with them at two different visits to the store, consider letting them have the benefit of the doubt.
If you plan to complain about a person, make sure that you have thought it through - only if they were obviously rude to you or did something really bad should you register a complaint. Chances are, if you are wrong, your complaint could - at the worst - get them fired or in a lot of trouble.
How to Write a Letter of Complaint
The following is a guide based on a letter of complaint, however it can be adapted if you need to make a verbal complaint. The following is what you need to include:
- The date of the problem and the date you are sending the letter.
- The store you purchased the item.
- What the item was - some companies produce a large range of items. If possible, include the packet. This way they can also check if the problem was just with one batch.
- The exact problem with the item - including if it's happened more than once or if this is the first time you've purchased the item. Let them know if you're a regular customer.
- Your name and contact details.A note at the end such as 'Awaiting your reply'.
Where to send a Letter of Complaint
You need to make sure that your complaint gets to somewhere that it can do the most good. The following are ways to find out where it should be sent:
- Check the packet - Many packets will have customer service lines, requesting you phone or mail them if there's a problem.
- Look at the website - Most companies have websites now. They generally have a link to contact them, if you prefer to send an email.
- Ask the store - If you aren't sure, ask the store where you purchased the item. If you request a refund or write a complaint they will generally pass it on to the company they ordered the item from.