No matter how careful you are about your spending, there is still a chance the product or service you receive will not live up to your expectations. However, having your problem resolved is not always as simple as contacting customer service, a salesperson or even a manager. These people are not always authorized to give you what you are asking for, whether it is a replacement, refund or discount.
If your initial attempts to have your problem resolved fail, take it to another level. Your tool – The Complaint Letter. Getting your complaint in writing creates a record of your communication and can be a clear and effective way to state your problem.
I recently disputed charges billed to me by my doctor, but I was denied a discount. Since I felt my complaints were valid, I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I found the name of the clinic’s CEO on the website, searched for her email address online, and sent her a complaint letter. The result was a 50% discount.
Not all complaint letters are created equal – implement these elements into your letter to get results.
Determine who your complaint should be directed
It is best to address it to a specific person that is in a position to make decisions. Start by visiting the company’s website and look for a corporate or contact page. They may have a specific department to handle complaints. With local or regional companies, upper management and owners will be more accessible. However, these contacts are not always listed. You can try calling and asking specifically who the owner, president or CEO of a company is. If you get lucky, ask how to spell their name and the best physical address or email address to reach them. Also, remember that Chris is not always a man and Robin is not always a woman. I prefer email. It is faster, and I believe more reliable.
You can also search online for contact names and information. Searching for “company name” and “president” may turn up a LinkedIn account or news article. Business directory sites, such as www.hoovers.com, will provide some company information for free. If you get a name, try to track down the company email structure, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.
I sent my letter to the CEO, but she forwarded it to the medical director. I figured the CEO wouldn’t be the one to actually address my complaint, but I assumed she would get me in touch with the right person.
Before you begin, remember to remain polite
Don’t write an angry letter or threaten the person that has the potential to help you. Don’t badmouth the company, it’s employees or products. If you were treated badly or were given a defective product, they will want to know about it and rectify the situation. Threats and name-calling are not incentives to help you.
Briefly state the intent of the letter
Be sure to provide any relevant information, such as the model and serial number of the product in question, date and location the service was provided and customer account number, if applicable.
Detail the problem and why you are not satisfied
Tell them how their service or product failed to live up to your expectations. In my case, I had additional expenses, lost time and physical scarring. I felt that more could have been done on their part to prevent this.
Give a brief history of who you have spoken to
With this history, include why your early attempts to resolve the problem, if any, were not adequate. If you have gotten to this point, you have probably already spoken with someone. Do you recall who you spoke with and on what date? Describe how they did or did not help you, but don’t vilify them.
State specifically what you would like done
Do you want your money back or the product replaced? If a service was performed, would you like it done over? If you are asking for a discount, it may be better to have them come up with a number first. They may offer more than you were expecting, which is what happened to me.
Give them a deadline for responding
Give a deadline, but be reasonable. At least one week, but no more than two. Let them know what further action you will take if they fail to respond, such as contacting the Better Business Bureau. Thank them for taking the time to help you.
Give them ways to reach you
Provide your phone number, mailing address and email.
Be sure to include copies or scanned attachments of any documentation, receipts or pictures. Make sure they are copies and not the originals.
CC any other relevant parties
If you are able to get more than one contact, send it to all of them, but make sure they know this is happening. Be careful not to go over someone’s head that would rather solve your problem than have their supervisor find out about it.
If you get to the right person and follow these steps, they will likely be open to meeting your request. In the event that this doesn’t work, additional steps can be taken on your part. Contact state or local consumer, regulatory or licensing agencies. The Better Business Bureau and even the media can help you. Small claims court may be a potential last resort.