Writing a Complaint Letter – As a consumer using products and services in the marketplace, you may experience a dispute involving financial services or another business interaction which will require that you complain to the appropriate authorized person to address your complaint.
The easiest method of communicating your lack of satisfaction is by telephone. However, often it is difficult to reach the appropriate person by phone. In many instances, the company you’re dealing with presents an automated telephone response system requiring you to navigate a complex series of instructions, prompts, and tones in order to reach the department authorized to handle your request. We have all experienced situations where the computer-generated instructions do not match up with our problem, and we are left to guess as to the appropriate selection prompt. Even worse, we have all felt the helpless frustration of having our call dropped before we can connect with a human being who might be able to handle our issue.
A written complaint letter is the next step to attempt to resolve a dispute when a verbal communication doesn’t work. Recording a complaint in writing shows that the person submitting the complaint letter is serious enough about the dispute to take it beyond the relatively easy verbal communication. The letter also preserves a written record of your dispute, which is useful for evidentiary purposes. In the event that your complaint escalates or is otherwise not resolved, the written letter shows the date on which the respondent was put on notice of your complaint — important evidence that a verbal communication doesn’t provide. The letter also provides a blank slate where you can describe and record the relevant events and dates surrounding the dispute. For example, you can write out a description of the issue and all relevant dates, what steps you took to seek resolution, calls or other communications you may have made to address the issue, and responses you may have received. The addressee will generally take action to investigate and respond to the allegations set forth in the letter; not to respond might be construed as a tacit acceptance of the veracity of the letter’s allegations.
Email makes the written complaint letter far easier to communicate than the traditional letter and stamp delivery methodology. The complaint letter can be written in a document format such as Word, printed out, signed and scanned into a pdf version of the document. The letter can then be attached to a cover email addressed to the recipient’s email address. The email address may be scraped from prior correspondence from the recipient, or obtained over the phone from the recipient’s business. Alternatively, an email address might be obtained from the business’s online directory.
The content of the email can say words to the effect of:
“Ladies/Gentlemen: Please see letter attached. Sincerely, [name of the complainant]”.
Here are steps to follow in writing an effective complaint letter:
1) State the problem clearly and concisely. The problem should be stated in the letter’s opening paragraph.
2) Use a Subject or “Re” line which succinctly states the nature of the complaint and references the name of the company with which you are having a dispute. For example, you might use for a subject line: “Unauthorized Credit Card Charge by XYZ Corporation”. If you have been given a complaint number based on a previous communication with the entity about which you are complaining, include that number. For example, the subject line might read as follows: “Complaint #31221211; Unauthorized Credit Card Charge by XYZ Corporation”.
3) Describe the product or service, including model and serial numbers, if applicable. Also indicate the business name and address, if applicable.
4) If the letter is following up on a prior verbal communication (such as with a telephone helpline), indicate the name of the person to whom you spoke and the conversation details. (As a general rule, whenever you complain about a dispute orally, remember to request the name of the person with whom you’re speaking.)
5) Be clear about the remedy you are seeking. Say what you want.
6) Indicate a date by which you expect to receive a response. Be reasonable here. For example, don’t insist “I need a response by 5 pm today or else.”
7) Remember to be nice. People in a customer service role have a difficult job, and generally respond better to a request that is courteous. Make the customer service representative your ally in resolving your dispute. So, no matter how justified your grievance or how egregious the business’s conduct, you should avoid being threatening, sarcastic or demeaning.
8) Attach copies of any documents that help to prove your case, such as receipts, invoices and orders. If you’re sending along copies of a credit card charge, use a Sharpie to block out the charge card numbers. You can also attach copies of any other correspondence you have had about the problem, such as prior letters or emails you may have sent or responses you may have received.
9) Be sure to include your contact information.
10) If you’re sending the complaint letter by standard postal mail, you should consider sending it certified with a return receipt requested. Sending the letter by certified mail preserves a record of receipt, including the name of the person who signed for the letter, as well as showing the seriousness with which you are treating the request.
Here is an example of a sample complaint letter.
Following these simple steps to writing an effective complaint letter should help you resolve many of the problems we encounter in our day to day commercial transactions.
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