Letters of complaint
Writing a formal letter of complaint remains an effective way to alert a company to a problem. This page includes guidelines for structuring your complaint, suggestions for style, and example letters.
Preparing to write
Before you begin your draft, gather all the information you will need to include in your complaint. This information may include the time, date, and location that you purchased faulty goods or services, reference or invoice numbers, and records of previous communication with the company. To support your complaint, you may need to enclose copies of documents such as receipts with your letter.
How to structure your letter of complaint
Your letter of complaint should follow the standard composition format for a formal letter. See how to lay out a letter.
Below the recipient’s address, include a subject line to indicate the product or service that you are addressing in your complaint. In the first body paragraph, open with a sentence that immediately draws the reader's attention to the matter, e.g.:
I am writing to complain about the faulty installation of my air conditioner.
I wish to express my dissatisfaction with my stay at your hotel.
Follow the opening sentence with a summary of the events that prompted your complaint. Be sure to include exact dates and times, and give all the relevant information in a clear and logical sequence.
In the next paragraphs, you should outline what steps you have taken thus far to resolve the matter and describe the consequences of the faulty product or service. Adding specific details, such as additional costs you have incurred to replace a faulty product, will strengthen your complaint. If you have had previous communication with the company, be sure to note it in your letter; include reference numbers where applicable.
In the final body paragraph of your letter, you should state your expectations of how the company should resolve the matter, including specific actions and deadlines, e.g.:
I would appreciate it if you could replace the missing part by next week.
Please let me know as soon as possible what action you propose to take.
I look forward to hearing from you within the next ten days.
Suggestion: Take a calm and focused approach
Keep your complaint focused on the exact incident that prompted your letter. Do not veer into generalized criticism of the company, and avoid personal attacks and abusive language. Even though you may be quite frustrated and angry, maintain a calm, gracious tone in your complaint. Expressing optimism that the matter will be resolved will produce a more persuasive letter than berating the reader for the company's mistakes.
See a letter of complaint about a faulty product (pdf).
See a letter of complaint about unsatisfactory workmanship (pdf).
See a letter of complaint about a disappointing holiday (pdf).
Back toLetters and invitations.
You may also be interested in:
How to lay out a letter
See more from Letters and invitations
If you have a complaint, help is on the way!
Writing a letter of complaint can be tricky, but the most important thing to remember is to be direct and tasteful. No one will take your complaint seriously if you are ranting and raving. Take a look at this example complaint letter for ideas on how you should approach writing a letter of complaint.
Example complaint letter:
56 Disgruntled Street
Customer Service Manager
That Awful Company
June 15, 2016
I am writing today to complain of the poor service I received from your company on June 12, 2016. I was visited by a representative of That Awful Company, Mr. Madman, at my home on that day.
Mr. Madman was one hour late for his appointment and offered nothing by way of apology when he arrived at noon. Your representative did not remove his muddy shoes upon entering my house, and consequently left a trail of dirt in the hallway. Mr. Madman then proceeded to present a range of products to me that I had specifically told his assistant by telephone I was not interested in. I repeatedly tried to ask your representative about the products that were of interest to me, but he refused to deal with my questions. We ended our meeting after 25 minutes without either of us having accomplished anything.
I am most annoyed that I wasted a morning (and half a day's vacation) waiting for Mr. Madman to show up. My impression of That Awful Company has been tarnished, and I am now concerned about how my existing business is being managed by your firm. Furthermore, Mr. Madman's inability to remove his muddy shoes has meant that I have had to engage the services, and incur the expense, of a professional carpet cleaner.
I trust this is not the way That Awful Company wishes to conduct business with valued customers—I have been with you since the company was founded and have never encountered such treatment before. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss matters further and to learn of how you propose to prevent a similar situation from recurring. I look forward to hearing from you.
Learn how to write other kinds of letters! Check out How to Write a Letter, available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon right now. You can also send us your letter for proofreading.
Image source: tashatuvango/BigStockPhoto.com
In today’s Internet- and email-driven society, the need to write a formal letter arises less often than in the past. However, it is still occasionally necessary to present a formal letter to obtain information, to apply for an academic program or a job, to complain about a product or service, or simply to express your opinion in an effective and coherent manner.
Life is full of disappointments, but sometimes these disappointments are so great that they warrant further scrutiny. Rather than act like a spoiled child, ranting and raving, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to write a beautifully constructed letter of complaint?
Writing a recommendation letter may seem like a daunting task. Here are some guidelines that can help you get the style, tone, content, and presentation of your letter just right. The end result will be an effective and professional recommendation.
A post-interview follow-up letter will show your potential employer that you are grateful for the interview opportunity, as well as committed to the position. A follow-up letter will also give you one last opportunity to make an impression.
Back to Advice and Articles