Where should you send letters of complaints?

If the organization has a customer services department at their head office this is the first place to start. The department will be geared up to dealing with complaints letters, and your complaint should be processed quickly with the others they'll receive because that's the job of a customer services department. This is especially the case for large organizations. Sending initial complaints letters to managing directors and CEO's will only be referred by their PA staff to the customer services department anyway, with the result of immediately alienating the customer services staff, because you've 'gone over their heads'.

The trick of sending a copy letter to the CEO and showing this on the letter to the customer services department is likely to have the same effect. Keep your powder dry until you need it.

You can generally find the address of the customer services department on (where appropriate) product packaging, invoices, websites, and other advertising and communications materials produced by the organization concerned. Local branches, if applicable, will also have the details.

If your complaint is one which has not been satisfactorily resolved by the normal customer services or complaints department, then you should refer the matter upwards, and ultimately, when you've run out of patience, to the top the company CEO or MD.

The higher the level of the person you are writing to, the more need to make your letter clear, concise, authoritative, etc. When referring complaints upwards always attach copies of previous correspondence.

Complaint Letter Template

(use letterheaded paper showing home/business address and phone number)   name and address (of customer service department)   date   Dear Sir or Madam (or name)   heading with relevant reference numbers (e.g. Faulty (xyz) product)   (Optional, especially if writing to a named person) ask for the person's help, eg "I'd really appreciate your help with this."   State facts of situation, including dates, names, reference numbers, but keep this very concise and brief (append details, history, photocopies if applicable, for example if the situation is very complex and has a long history). (e.g. I'm afraid that the enclosed (xyz) product doesn't work. It is the third one I've had to return this month (see attached correspondence). I bought it from ABC stores at Newtown, Big County on (date). I was careful to follow the instructions for use, honestly.)   (Optional, and normally worth including) state some positive things about your normal experience with the organization concerned, for example: that you've no wish to go elsewhere and hope that a solution can be found; compliment any of their people who have given good service; compliment their products and say that normally you are very happy with things. (e.g. Other than the three I've had to return recently, I've always found your products to be excellent.)   State your suggested solution. If the situation and solution is complex, state also that you'll be as flexible as you can to come to an agreed way forward. (e.g. I'd be grateful if you could send a replacement and refund my postage (state amount)).   State that you look forward to hearing from them soon and that you appreciate their help. (e.g. I really appreciate your help. )   Yours faithfully (if not sent to a named person) or sincerely (if sent to a named person)   Your signature   Your printed name (and title/position if applicable)   c.c. (plus names and organizations, if copying the letter to anyone) enc. (if enclosing something, such as packaging or attachments


Sample Complaint Letter


Fortune Goods 317 Orchard Road Los Angeles   13 November 2009   Attn: Mr David Choi Sales Manager Everlong Batteries 171 Choi Hung Road Hung Hom Hong Kong   Re. Order No. 768197   Dear Mr Choi:   I am writing to inform you that the goods we ordered from your company have not been supplied correctly.   On 6 November 2009 we placed an order with your firm for 12,000 ultra super long-life batteries. The consignment arrived yesterday but contained only 1,200 batteries.   This error put our firm in a difficult position, as we had to make some emergency purchases to fulfil our commitments to all our customers. This caused us considerable inconvenience.   I am writing to ask you to please make up the shortfall immediately and to ensure that such errors do not happen again. Otherwise, we may have to look elsewhere for our supplies.   I look forward to hearing from you by return.   Yours sincerely   J. Brown   J. Brown Purchasing Officer  




Writing a Complaint Letter

include your name, address, and home and work phone numbers.

type your letter if possible. If it is handwritten, make sure it is neat and easy to read.

make your letter brief and to the point. Include all important facts about your purchase, including the date and place where you made the purchase and any information you can give about the product or service such as serial or model numbers or specific type of service.

remember, don't attempt to put every detail into the letter. Keep the letter concise, short and simple; use attachments, photocopies of previous correspondence, reports, etc., to provide the background. State exactly what you want done about the problem and how long you are willing to wait to get it resolved. Be reasonable.

include all documents regarding your problem. Be sure to send COPIES, not originals.

avoid writing an angry, sarcastic, or threatening letter. The person reading your letter probably was not responsible for your problem but may be very helpful in resolving it.

keep a copy of the letter for your records.


Language Development

The Grammar of 'Complain'


Word Part of Speech Examples
to complain infinitive verb I would like to complain about your services.
complains third person verb He complains all the time.
complained past tense verb Customers complained about our services last year. I complained to the customer service representative 2 weeks ago.
have complained present perfect verb Recently several customers have complained about this problem.
complaining continuous verb Customers are complaining about our services.
adjective We value complaining customers because they help us to improve.
gerund Complaining makes me feel better.
complaint noun I have received a complaint about our services.
compliant (meaning: obedient / co-operative) adjective The company is a compliant customer.

Notes: Prepositions:

complain about + problem ( a noun or noun phrase); e.g. 'I would like to complain about your services'.

complain to + a person; e.g. 'I complained to the customer service representative'.

complained of + a medical problem; e.g. 'He complained of not sleeping well'.

complaint of + date the complaint was written; e.g. 'I received your complaint of 4 December 2007 '.

complaint on + date the complaint was received; e.g. 'I received your complaint on 5 December 2007 '.

complained that + clause; e.g. 'He complained that we had not answered his e-mails'.



Task 1.Read this situation and do the exercise which follows.



You are an administrator for Exhibitions International, a company which organizes business exhibitions and trade fairs around the world. You have received the following letter of complaint about your company's most recent exhibition.

Flat 303 Lucky Mansions 856 Cheung Sha Wan Road Cheung Sha Wan Kowloon   3 December 2007   The Administrative Officer Exhibition Services Exhibitions International 33 Kadoorie Avenue Kowloon     Dear Sir/Madam   I attended your exhibition Sound Systems 2007 at the Fortune Hotel (22-25 January) and found it informative and interesting. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the event was spoiled by a number of organizational problems. I explain each of the problems below.   Firstly, I had difficulty in registering to attend the event. You set up an on-line registration facility, but I found the facility totally unworkable. Even after spending several wasted hours trying to register in this way, the computer would not accept my application. I eventually succeeded in registering by faxing you. Secondly, the Sound Systems 2007 exhibition was held at one of Hong Kong's most prestigious hotels, but frankly the venue was better suited to a medium-sized business conference than to a large exhibition open by registration to the public. The lack of space led to serious overcrowding in the venue, particularly at peak visiting times (i.e. lunch times and early evening). On one or two occasions I was also seriously concerned about the physical safety of attendees.   The final point I want to make concerns product information. It is very enjoyable to see and test a range of excellent sound systems, but it is also important to be able to take away leaflets on interesting products, so that more research can be done before deciding which system to buy. However, by the time I attended the exhibition all the leaflets had been taken.   Could I please ask you to look into these matters - not only on my behalf but also on behalf of other attendees, and in fact on behalf of your company, too.   I look forward to hearing from you.   Yours faithfully   Michael Leung Michael Leung



Exercise Choose the correct option from the box:


complain complains complaining complained have complained has complained Complaints complaints Complaint complaint
Exhibitions International MEMORANDUM
To: Anne Kong, Director of Exhibition Services
From: Kim Wong, Administrative Officer
Date: 5 December 2007

Subject: Suggestions Arising from (1______) about Sound Systems Exhibition


I am writing to inform you that recently some attendees (2______) about the Sounds Systems Exhibition, and to make some suggestions.

2. Problems, Causes & Suggestions


Attendees wrote to (3______) that the online registration facility did not work. There was a bug in the program, which has now been fixed. I suggest that we should do more testing next year.



Many of the attendees who (4_____ ) said that the venue was too small. We underestimated the popularity of the exhibition. Next year we should book a bigger venue.



There were (5_____) that our exhibitors ran out of leaflets. We should ask them to print more next year.


2.4 Written (6)

A number of attendees wrote to us (7_____) about these issues. To compensate them I would like to send them free VIP passes to next year's exhibition.



With your approval I will handle these (8_____) by implementing the above suggestions.


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