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How to Write a Complaint Letter Correctly

— June 20, 2019

Products that don’t work or services that aren’t good are frustrating. Understandably, you want the company to know about it and correct the problem. Writing a proper complaint letter is a great way to do that.

While there are several ways to issue a complaint, for example, in case a company has left you unsatisfied with a product, writing a complaint letter is definitely the best one. Many people think that phoning a company is the most effective way because it can ensure some fast answers, but, there’s a problem with that. 

If you call a company to complain about something, chances are that you’re going to talk with a customer service representative or some junior position. In this case, that person can promise you to look into the issue and let you know the results as soon as possible. While this answer sounds good, you don’t really receive the answer you’re looking for, so the issue remains. Besides, it’s quite possible that the answer you’ll receive – if you receive one at all – won’t be helpful. 

This is not a good idea, especially when an issue is urgent and requires immediate solutions. 

On the other hand, a complaint letter is much harder to ignore. And if you address your letter to a manager or someone in a senior position, you’re more likely to receive the response you’re looking for. 

1. Address the Letter to Someone Reasonably Senior

Addressing a letter to a customer service department or another organizational department that handles complaints reduces the probability of getting the desired outcome. Customer service representatives receive numerous complaints every day so it may be difficult for them to deal with all of them quickly.

To get a response as quickly as possible, it is recommended to find a name of someone reasonably senior, e.g. a finance director, a customer service head, or an executive officer, and write a letter to their address. 

Simple Internet research can provide the contact data you need to send your letter; for example, a professional social media network such as LinkedIn, a base of contacts Crunchbase or an official website of a company typically provide contact options such as direct messages, email messages, mail information, and, in some cases, even phone numbers. 

2. Identify Yourself

In order to help the reader understand the purpose of the letter as well as who the sender is, it’s advised to write a concise heading at the top of the letter. It should contain the following:

  • Your full name 
  • Your customer number or account number (if applicable)
  • Order number (if applicable)
  • Date of the purpose (if applicable)
  • A few words about the purpose of the letter.

This information will help the person who will be reading your letter to find your account quickly and see what the problem might be.

Man browsing in shop; image by Ellen Auer, via
Man browsing in shop; image by Ellen Auer, via

3. Describe the Problem in a Concise Manner

Your description of the problem should be as clear and concise as possible so the company doesn’t have to contact you for additional explanations and clarifications. To make sure that you’ve included everything they need to know to resolve the problem, check your letter for the following, as advised by Julia Pratt, an editor from

  • Explain the essence of the problem, e.g. “I purchased an electric kettle in Electronics store on April 29, 2019”
  • Name of the people who you dealt with on the day of the purchase; for example, these could be shop consultants, managers, etc. 
  • If you’re writing to complain about a product, describe the state of the product when you received it and what was wrong with it. If you’re complaining about a service, let the reader know what happened during the time you were ordering that service and when you discovered a problem. 

4. Write in a Respectful Tone

It’s easy for someone who’s experienced a problem to get emotional and subjective when writing a letter. However, a negative and/or a disrespectful tone may frustrate, annoy, or even make the reader angry, so it’s important to remain objective, and if possible, fairly positive.

Also, remember that the person who will be reading your complaint probably sympathizes with you and wants to help, so you have to let them know that you understand that they didn’t do anything on purpose. For example, it’s a known fact that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook gets thousands of customer complaints; one of them politely addressed the poor quality of the company’s customer service music, so Cook commanded to improve it himself. 

According to Cook, these customers really care about the company, so taking their suggestions and complaints into account is something that Apple should do to improve. On the other hand, a disrespectful letter is more likely to generate a similar response or a lack of it. 

5. Describe Your Vision of How to Fix the Problem

In this section, you need to share your ideal vision of handling the problem; for example, you can propose the company to offer you a refund, a repair, or another option.

For example, you can write the following:

I would like a full refund on this laptop as I would like to buy another one. 

Here, you can also subtly imply that you may take your business elsewhere. Companies are often afraid to lose customers because of the cost reasons; for example, it’s a known fact that attracting a new customer may cost up to five times more than to retain an existing one.

6. Set a Deadline to Get a Quicker Response

It’s quite possible that the recipient of your letter receives a lot of them every week, so getting a response from them could take some time. Let them know that you’re expecting a reply within a specific timeframe so the recipient remembers your letter.

For example, you can set the deadline by writing the following:

Please let me know the results as soon as possible, between 9 am and 8 pm from 12th May to 19th May. 

I would like to receive a reply between the 12th of May to the 19th of May.

Following up with an email or a phone call in a week after you sent the letter is also a good idea to maximize the chance of a quick reply. Make sure to follow up even if you receive an automatic email from the company because it typically contains no relevant and useful information. 

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