In a typical day, we might write in a variety of styles, including a business email, a grocery list, a blog, or a status update on a social networking site. These all have different purposes, whether to inform, remind, or entertain. But what about adding another useful style to our repertoire—writing to complain?
I have always been a fan of the letter to the editor. I enjoy expressing my outrage at some newspaper article in a sassy and well-worded letter. I enjoy even more when it gets published. In fact, when I am a retired old lady, I plan to spend my days reading the papers and crafting witty letters to the editor (although by the time I reach retirement age, newspapers will have gone the way of the Dodo bird).
In addition to the personal satisfaction they afford me, I have recently discovered that letters of complaint can actually pay off. A while ago, I ordered a bathing suit online from a well-known retailer (one that is popular with the first lady). The suit, when it came, didn't fit correctly, and I had to send it back. For this transaction, I had to pay about $15 in shipping fees and in the end had no actual product to show for it. Instead of just getting upset, I decided to write a letter to said retailer to express my disappointment. One email exchange later, the retailer refunded $13 of my shipping costs and wrote me a nice message with the hope that I will shop in their stores again in the future.
I believe a few keys to a successful complaint letter are:
1. Be respectful.
2. Stress your status as either a first-time or long-time customer.
3. Compliment the retailer's brand or reputation (e.g. I have had good experiences in the past, have heard good things about your store from friends, or similar).
4. Express your disappointment rather than your anger.
5. Suggest possible solutions to the issue (I had simply suggested the retailer review it's shipping charges, where shipping a bathing suit cost the same as shipping a winter coat).
6. If necessary, politely threaten to never do business with the retailer again.
Have you had any successes writing a letter of complaint about a product or service? What other tips would you suggest?