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How to Write an Effective Complaint to a Company: Step-by-Step Guide and Sample Letters

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How to write a complaint letter

How to write a complaint letter

Writing a Letter of Complaint

We've all experienced being dissatisfied with a company's product. Buying an item which is faulty, of poor quality or simply does not exceed your expectations should always be addressed. Sometimes, a restaurant may serve you food which is not what you were expecting (hair in the meat, anyone?).

Whilst people are generally happy with a product or service, sometimes, a company just lets you down.

Receiving a faulty product or being treated badly by a waiter shouldn't go unnoticed! Issues like these can be easily resolved—with a letter or email of complaint.

This guide will go step by step through writing a letter of complaint which will help you to make an effective complaint to a company and get results! You will also get exclusive top tips and sample letters to help you.

How to Write a Strongly-Worded Letter of Complaint: A Summary

Each of these steps is described in full below.

StepsWhat You Need To SayExample - Product

Step 1: Make Sure You Send It to the Right Place

Address of department and company on left. Greet with Dear Sir/Madam

Address, Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Mr/Ms Blakey

Step 2: Start the Letter With the Right Tone

You bought a product in _store_ on _date_. Give other relevant information such as reference codes, warranty details, guarantees and expiry dates for food.

I recently bought the Pastel Lavender Curtains of dimension 1.5m x 2m in Super Stores, Bakers Lane on 12th September 2020. The reference code for the curtains is 338J.

Step 3: Explain the Problem Effectively

What was wrong with the product or service? Be brief, precise and concise. Mention exactly what is wrong with the product.

The curtains had a rip on the outside seam which is very noticeable and it cannot be fixed without damaging the fabric.

Step 4: Suggest a Solution

State how you would like the problem to be fixed, what will amend the issue? It could be a refund/repair/replacement/change in the service/coupon/free products

To amend the issue, I would like a fully paid replacement of the curtain type mentioned above.

Step 5: Enclose or Attach Relevant and Necessary Documents

You may mention also that there are relevant documents enclosed, ie: guarantees, receipts

Please find enclosed the receipt with the necessary details and the 1 year guarantee.

Step 6: Set a Time Limit

Give a suitable time frame for a response.

I would be pleased if you could send the replacement any time from 6th June to 15th June.

Step 7: Write a Strong Ending

Conclude by saying you hope they will fix the problem and sign off.

I have utmost confidence that you will send the replacement and amend the issue. Yours faithfully....


How to Write an Effective Letter of Complaint

Step 1: Make Sure You Send It to the Right Place

The first thing you need is the:

  1. Address of the company headquarters in your country, and
  2. The department you will send it to.

It may be difficult at first to find the place to write to because companies may not obviously show where their base is. More than likely, you will be able to find their contact information on:

  • A warranty or guarantee page supplied with your product
  • Their website. Click on the "Contact Us" or "About Us" links which contain the relevant information
  • The product itself. Food and drinks usually have contact information on their packaging, so make sure to check them! You would be surprised that the information is in the easiest of places.

Once you have their address, make sure to check the relevant department to which you will be sending the letter. For small services such as restaurants, there is no need, but for high-power companies (Unilever or Pepsi, for example), a department will be needed. On their website, the company will specify where to send your letter, whether it is technical, customer service or so forth.

Step 2: Start the Letter With the Right Tone

Once you have that pesky address found out and ready to go, you can start the letter!

  1. The first thing you need to do is to put the address of the sender in the top right-hand corner and your address in the left-hand corner. This is for the sake of formality, which always adds a nice touch to your letter.
  2. Next, write Dear Sir/Madam if you don't know who the customer service representative is. If you are writing to a manager or CEO, write Dear Mr/Ms.....

Then, you begin the actual body of the letter, which will be the centre of attention for whoever will be reading it!

  • Begin by saying that you purchased an item in whatever store on whatever date. For food, mention the expiry date and store code. For anything else, that is relevant. eg: I recently purchased a 2L bottle of Pepsi Max in Super Stores on 19th November 2014. The expiry date of the bottle was 30th November 2014, and the code on the bottleneck read 113A.
  • Say that you always expected the highest quality from that company, and that particular day, your expectations were dampened, eg: I always valued TechnoPC highly and trusted each and every one of your laptops. I went into Super Stores to purchase a laptop with the same expectations, but my experience with the laptop deems that statement untrue.

Step 3: Explain the Problem Effectively

The next part is the most important because it mentions exactly what happened when you used the product or attended the service.

  • Say what state the product was in when you opened the packaging and what exactly is wrong with it. If you cannot identify what is wrong internally, just say that it is not working correctly, and the company will look into it, eg: I found that the camera was not functioning correctly. Every time I turned the camera on, it would enter the photo gallery. This did not allow me to take a picture, as it only allowed me to access the gallery.
  • If you are talking about a service, state what happened in your visit, eg: When I had an appointment with the hairdresser by the name of "Lizze", she spent 30 minutes talking to her friends and I ended up waiting for a very long time!

Tips for conveying the right tone:

  • Remain calm at all times. Don't become infuriated; you have every right to be, but imagine how many complaints the customer service team received that day. The reader could get frustrated, annoyed with you and throw it away, deeming it as false or spam.
  • Stay concise, do not waffle up your letter with irrelevant statements such as saying what a waste of money it was, how much you suffered or what a bad product it is. They simply want to know what is wrong and fix it; they usually never read even half of the letter, only the key sentences.
  • Be as precise as possible when saying what is wrong with the product or service. This will save a lot of time for the company.
If you have a complaint, don't hesitate! That is what customer service are for. Go for it!

If you have a complaint, don't hesitate! That is what customer service are for. Go for it!

Step 4: Suggest a Solution

In this section, you will say what you want to be done to fix the issue. You have a number of options which you can request to the company including:

  • A refund for the product
  • A voucher to be used with any of their range
  • The product to be repaired
  • A change to their services, such as serving more high-quality food, hiking up the hygiene or a change in the attitude of the staff.
  • Food coupons

Examples: I would like a full refund for my camera as I would like to purchase an alternate camera instead.

To amend the issue, I would like a fully repaired phone which is capable of taking images because currently, the function for doing so is not working.

I would like coupons which I can use to purchase other foods because the crackers I bought from you were inedible.

Say what you would like the product to be like in the future if you were to purchase it again, eg: I hope that this issue will not happen again for other customers and that I will always receive the highest quality from your products.

Step 5: Enclose or Attach Relevant and Necessary Documents

If you have any pictures which you would like to enclose (particularly for emails), reference pages such as guarantees, warranty pages or receipts, you will need to mention so in the letter.

  • Say that there is a warranty/guarantee/receipt enclosed.

Examples: "Please find attached a copy of my original receipt, along with the alarm clock's guarantee page and information regarding the serial number."

If you have a damaged product that you would like to repair, make sure to mention this also.

Example: Please find also enclosed, the faulty camera which I referred to in my letter.

Step 6: Set a Time Limit

Why set a time limit? Well, companies receive tens of letters each day, if not hundreds. Chances are, it can take from 6 weeks to 3 months to get a response from a company, and if you want a repair, it will take even longer. Now that's a pretty long wait!

Most companies will take a look at your letter about two weeks after you send it because of the backlog. To avoid them throwing it on the backburner, you can set a time frame when you want a response. Now that's nifty.

Examples: I would like a response at your earliest convenience, during any time from 16th August to 30th August. That would be greatly appreciated.

I would like the repair to be completed and sent to my home any time from 13th May to 27th May.

Step 7: Write a Strong Ending

You can finish your letter by saying that you hope the issue will be resolved and sign off with Yours Faithfully—if you don't know their name or Yours Sincerely—if you know their name.

Example: I hope that this issue will be resolved, and I have the utmost confidence that you will amend the problem.

Yours faithfully,

Jenny Parker

Send off your letter, and you should expect a response within the time frame you stated.

Reasons to Write a Letter of Complaint

Many people ignore a product which lets them down by not doing anything at all. As a consumer, you have the right to get your product refunded or replaced by another. Here are some reasons why writing a letter of complaint is effective:

  • The company will be notified of any faulty products in their line, which could cause more hazard to others. By contacting them, they can see why it was faulty and prevent it from happening again.
  • Companies hate to see a dissatisfied customer, so you have a good chance of getting your product replaced or refunded.
  • For beverages and foodstuffs, instead of a replacement, you can receive free coupons or even free products! Companies always stick these in to sweeten you up.
  • A restaurant or other company providing a service can be brought to the attention of a member of staff who may not be doing their job properly.
  • If something isn't right, fess up! You paid your money for that product or service, so you should have a high-quality product. Never stay quiet about it because you will get your issue resolved pretty quickly!
The following letter is a complaint for a faulty smartphone.

The following letter is a complaint for a faulty smartphone.

Sample Letter for a Faulty Smartphone

Dear Sir/Madam,

I recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone at Super Stores, Baker Street, London on the 17th July. The guarantee is valid for one year and the reference number on the box said SSF319.

The smartphone was faulty and I am very disappointed in your products. The smartphone keeps displaying the menu screen but does not allow me to access applications or open a new window. The screen remains frozen on the menu screen.

I am asking you to repair the phone at your earliest convenience, preferably within the time frame stated below.

Please find enclosed the guarantee supplied with the phone along with the receipt that the store gave me when I purchased. You will find all the necessary reference codes on these documents.

I would like to receive a response within the time frame 27th July - 10 August, and I would like the phone to be fully repaired and functioning normally.

I hope that this does not happen again and to other customers. I will continue to be a customer of yours if the issue is amended. I hope that the problem will be fixed, and I have the utmost confidence that it will.

Yours faithfully,

Susan Wells

Sample Letter for Poor Service at Restaurant

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to detail my disappointing experience at the Taco Hut on Wednesday 26th July. As a regular customer of yours, I am very upset to say that I had a most horrendous experience at your restaurant.

When I ordered my tacos, the staff completely delayed the process by ignoring my order! When I asked them if I could order, they took it but were very snappy and rude. One member of staff by the name of "Emma" served the order, but it was not what I ordered in the first place. She would not change the order, and I was left to eat food which I did not ask for in the first place!

I think that the staff need a change in attitude towards their customers. I would like them to do their job correctly and be friendly and helpful. Their snappiness and "ugh, another customer" attitude should disappear. The only way to a successful restaurant is with friendly staff who are willing to help out.

I will continue to be a customer of yours once the issue has been amended. Please notify me when there has been a change.

Yours sincerely,

Susan Wells.

What's the Best Way to Complain: Letter or Email?

It can be hard to decide whether to write an email or a letter. Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages, but it is generally preferred if you write a hand-written letter. This is because the company will take you more seriously and can mail the repair/replacement to you a lot quicker.

However, some companies (such as Apple) do not have a valid address you can write to for a repair, so you will have to email them to the relevant department.

Top Tips

The following top tips will help you in your course to get the issue resolved!

  • Be concise. Any kind of fluffing or ranting about the issue will only result in confusion and frustration for the reader, and that's the last thing you want! Companies want concise, formal letters which can be easily scanned and then used to retrieve vital information such as what is wrong, the time frame you want a response and what will fix the problem. This will make the process swift and easy.
  • Don't swear, get nasty or show a temper! That is a very bad vibe to give out and will only make matters worse!
  • Don't make any threats to the company unless you have consulted a solicitor. For small issues such as faulty products, there is no need to make any legal threats.
  • Make sure to give them the impression that you will continue to be a customer of theirs if they resolve the problem. If you say that you will never buy their products again, they may ignore your letter and never fix the issue. But by saying that if they refund you/change matters, then they will do so to keep you as a customer.
  • Give a time frame when you want an answer or resolution. This keeps things swift and running smoothly. With no time frame, the company may not reply for weeks.

What's Your Experience?

All comments are appreciated! Did you ever experience an unsatisfactory product or service? Share your experience below. Thanks for reading!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Susan W


Charles on January 26, 2020:

Or you know, you can not be an as*hole Karen and you can try just calling the company up like a normal person and having an honest down to earth conversation with the boss/owner about your problems, instead of sending a creepy passive aggressive little email.

Meenakshi on September 17, 2018:

Awesome for me

L.O. on August 25, 2018:

I purchased a gift box with two skin products and two other products in the same order. They were delivered by UPS and they were really hot. There was no insulation at all and the pretty box was broken. I wrote a letter and they told me that I need to return the products because I’m not a qualified spa to buy it as whole sale.

Sachin on March 14, 2017:

Nice one

Susan W (author) from The British Isles, Europe on June 30, 2014:

Sunardi - Wow, what a terrible experience! You must be really annoyed about the black outs. Sorry to hear about your result in the end - I'm sure that they will do something soon. Maybe try contacting them again.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Sunardi from Indonesia on June 28, 2014:

Good advice. I have one ridiculous experience. I am living in a village and it was so often got black out. I tried to contact the administrator of the electricity service through fans page of the company. Then I got a phone number of the employee. I don't know what his responsibility actually.

I always told him when I got black out. The problems were not solved. I was angry because of this. About a month ago I sent an email to the website. This is a national service, actually. In my email I said "How did you do the employee recruitment...!!!"

The result, about 10 employee came to my home. Fortunately my father was not at home. However, they did nothing. They just clarified while showing me the print out of the email.

I said in my mind, "Customer is a king".

Susan W (author) from The British Isles, Europe on June 23, 2014:

Flourish - Thank you for sharing your experiences with faulty products. Wow, it seems you had quite an ordeal, pesky cat food!

At least you got the problem sorted out in the end, and it just shows that knowing all the dates, times and codes on the packaging are well worth paying attention to. I appreciate you telling about your experience, I developed a new insight into the world of letter complaints!

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 21, 2014:

Twice I have had problems with fully sealed cans of cat food being moldy inside upon opening them, and I wrote the company on both occasions to complain. (With the volume that I buy, over time this is to be expected.) I received a satisfactory and quick response both times. What I learned from my first experience was that at least for cat food it wasn't enough for them to have a photo of the moldy product and the UPC to solve the quality issue in the factory. They were truly interested in pinpointing what factory made the product on what date. There was a time/date ink code on the bottom of the can, something I never typically paid attention to. The second time around I knew to provide that information. Who knew? I also included a photo of the cats that were eating their products in my house. I was glad that not only did I get more than my money back in coupons but also I helped other consumers feed their cats a suitable product.