What issues should I consider when trying to write an effective complaint letter?

Writing a letter of complaint

There are a number of reasons why you would wish to write a complaint letter. Many may centre on certain business transactions but often the requirement to write a letter of complaint may occur through anything which happens in everyday life. For example if you are driving you car on a road which is poorly maintained by the local authority and following damage to your care you may wish to write a letter stating the problem as a first port of call to get the issue resolved.

Will writing a complaint letter always result in legal action?

In some cases a complaint letter may be the first stage of a legal action in notifying the individual who you wish to claim against of the problem. In other cases it will remove the need for legal action as it may be the only required communication to enable you to receive what you require under the terms of the letter.

What factors should I take into consideration when writing a complaint letter?

You should try and take the following factors into consideration when writing an effective complaint letter:

  • Try and find a specific individual who you can address your letter to

  • Provide full contact information for yourself 

  • Ensure that the tone of the letter is correct

  •  Provide evidence of your complaint

  • Provide details of what it is you want

  • Think seriously about the threat of legal action

Finding a specific individual to address the letter to

It certainly pays to do some research before you submit a complaint letter to a specific company or a body and you should always try and find the specific person whose job it is to deal with these issues or an individual who should be aware of the problem. This will ensure that you have a record of it being sent to a specific person when you come to communicate again. If they have not responded you know who you are dealing with.

Furthermore it is more likely that action will be taken if you delegate the task to a specific individual.

If you simply send the letter to a general address or an email inbox it is much easier for the letter to become lost in the process and not delivered to the correct person. It is also much easier for the company or body to state that they never received the letter.

Provide full contact information

It is always good practice when writing a letter of this sort to include your full contact information to enable the individual who you have addressed the letter to back in contact with you to discuss any issues which have arisen following receipt of the letter.

Ensure that the tone of the letter is correct

You should always ensure that the tone that the letter is written in is effective. If the tone is calm and calculated simply stating the issues and what you wish to happen rather than using aggressive language you are much more likely to get an appropriate response. Furthermore, you are much more likely to be taken seriously if you don’t use aggressive language as it will be viewed that you have a full appreciation of the issues.

Provide full evidence of the complaint

You should also ensure that you keep copies of all documents. If your complaint involves other documents such as receipts or invoices you should always send a photocopy of this with the letter and ensure that you keep the originals for your own records.

If you complaint relates to damage suffered to something like you car as detailed above ensure that you get full evidence of what has happened. This may include taking a photograph of the damage to your car, a photograph of the state of the road and any quotes you may have received to get your car fixed.

Provide details of what it is you want

People will write complaint letters for a variety of reasons with the following being common required outcomes:            

  • Getting your money back

  • Being compensated for damage

  • Demanding that a faulty product be replaced

  • Being provided with a product free of charge

When writing a complaint letter you should always ensure that you include within the letter full details of what it is you expect to be done to remedy your complaint.

The threat of legal action

You should only threaten legal action if you are in fact prepared to go through with the case and that you believe you would be successful in a legal claim. If you feel that you may not be successful and are not prepared to take legal action do not mention this simply state your reasons and what you think should be done to remedy the complaint.