How to Write a Complaint Letter: The First Step Toward Getting Justice

Published on January 26, 2021

How to Write a Complaint Letter Featured Image. Picture of hand writing with title text: "How to Write a Complaint Letter / The First Step Toward Getting Justice"When a company doesn’t deliver its goods and services like you expect it to, it can be difficult to know where to turn for help.

Sure, most companies have customer service departments that exist for just these circumstances. But if you can’t reach customer service, or if they’re unwilling or unable to help with your problem, what can you do next?

One of the first steps you can take to try to get resolution for a dispute with a company is writing them a complaint letter. It’s also a great way to document your dispute and your attempts to resolve it with the company, in case you need to turn to a third-party for help getting a resolution.

Still, for many consumers, writing a complaint letter can be a daunting, intimidating task. Don’t worry! We have all the steps and tips you need to write an effective complaint letter — and another path toward justice in case your letter doesn’t have the results you want.

How to Write a Complaint Letter: Step-by-Step

Writing a complaint letter doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it should be simple and straightforward. Here’s how to get started.

Step-by-step how to write a complaint letter. Text version of image included in article below this image.Step 1: Record Everything That’s Happening

Document everything you can about your complaint, including purchase date, serial numbers, advertised prices, receipts, and any conversations you have with customer service. Whenever possible, try to keep everything in writing — that means try to communicate with customer service by email or chat instead of on the phone, if you can.

Step 2: Find the Right Recipient

Your complaint won’t be resolved if it doesn’t end up in the hands of someone who can resolve it. You might send a complaint letter to a customer service agent or manager, or to the company’s manager or owner. Search the company’s website to try to identify the right person to address your letter to.

Step 3: Write Your Letter

And finally, it’s time to sort through all your documentation from step one, and decide what needs to be included in your letter. If you’re not sure what to include, don’t worry — if you keep reading, we have tips for that, too.

What to Include in a Complaint Letter

There are a few different elements that should be included in every complaint letter, no matter the nature of the complaint. 

Here’s a template that will help you get started.

  • Addresses and date. At the top of your letter, you should include your name and address. Under that should be the date you’re writing your letter, and then the recipient’s name, company name, and address. Double check the company address for accuracy.
  • Title. Unlike a simple letter you might send to a friend, a complaint letter should have a title that sums up your complaint and helps the recipient quickly identify why you’re sending the letter and whether they’re the right person to help you.
  • Body. The body of the letter should be short and concise. Explain your complaint and why you believe the company is at fault.
  • Conclusion. In your conclusion, propose a resolution to your complaint that would satisfy you, and give the letter recipient a reasonable amount of time to respond to you. If you’d like a quicker response, include a phone number or email address and request that they use that to respond.

How to Write a Complaint Letter: Example Letter

To help you see all of the above elements in action, here’s an example complaint letter. Note that it’s polite and concise, simply spelling out the complaint and the customer’s proposed resolution.

Sample complaint letter. Full text: Example Complaint Letter Bob Jones 123 Briar Ave., Chicago, IL 60654 Jan. 6, 2021 Tom Thompson Customer Care Director Thompson Furniture 72 West Lakeshore Dr., Chicago, IL, 60614 Dear Mr. Thompson, On January 5th, I purchased a coffee table (serial number 30267981) from your furniture store's website. I paid online, and my order number was #TL924355. I have included a copy of my receipt. The coffee table was delivered, but with a large crack in its surface. Please refer to the attached photographs that show the damage. I reached out to a customer support representative on January 6th, and they were unable to resolve my complaint to my satisfaction. Please see the attached email with customer support representative Brian. To solve this issue, I would like you company to send me a replacement for the coffee table that arrived damage. You can contact me at bobjones@email.com, and I will wait one week to hear from you before seeking help from a third party. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. Sincerely, Bob Jones

Tips for Writing an Effective Complaint Letter

When writing a complaint letter, you should try to keep it as simple and straightforward as you possibly can. That said, there are some things you can do to make your letter more effective. Follow these tips to write a complaint letter that will be even harder for companies to ignore.

Be Polite.

The old adage that says you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar is certainly true in this case. Writing an angry, sarcastic, or threatening letter will not help prove your point, and may actually work against you if a recipient feels threatened by your words or tone. Instead, keep things courteous and stick to the facts.

Don’t Blame the Recipient.

Odds are, the mistake isn’t the fault of the person you’re writing to. Refrain from specifically placing blame on anyone but the company as a whole, and again, stick to just the relevant facts as you explain your complaint and desired resolution.

Get Right to the Point

Don’t write a long, rambling letter. Keep it as short as possible to ensure you’re only including information that’s necessary. State your complaint, your desired resolution, a timeline, and a way for the company to contact you, and then sign off and leave it at that. Most complaint letters will not need more than a few paragraphs to be effective.

Include Relevant Documents and Proof

While it might be a pain to have to print out photos and emails to include with your letter, this is an important step in making your case to the company. Make sure you include any documentation or proof that helps build your case, including (but not limited to) receipts, order numbers, credit card statements, photos, emails, and chat transcripts.

Double Check Your Spelling and Grammar

Part of writing a professional, effective complaint letter is making sure that it’s cleanly formatted and free of major errors in spelling or punctuation. Proof-read your letter carefully, or, if you’re not confident in your writing abilities, ask a friend who has good spelling and grammar skills to look it over before you send it.

Need Help Writing a Complaint Letter?

Even with all these tips, writing an effective complaint letter isn’t easy.

If you’re struggling to get justice when you’ve been let down by a company, you can get help — from FairShake.

You tell us about your complaint. Then, we’ll send the company a legal demand on your behalf. If they still won’t resolve your issue, we’ll help guide you through the steps of pursuing consumer arbitration, a process that can help regular consumers get justice against huge companies.

Banks, gyms, phone and cable companies, internet service providers, and more — we’ve taken them all on and helped put the power (and money) back where it belongs: In consumers’ hands.

Ready to get the justice you deserve? Start a claim with FairShake today.

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