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English Language for Business

Writing a letter of complaint

How to write a letter of complaint is a task that the British used to do very well.  The need to get the correct tone and not appear too aggressive is something that British people excel at.  However, with the advent of call centres and e-mail, there are not many letters of complaint these days.  However, if you work for an organisation or if you deal with organisations, you might come across these letters sometimes.  Let's take a look at one of the most famous letters of complaint ever written.  For space, we can only show an edited portion, but you can find the full letter here.    

 

Dear Mr Branson

 

REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

 

I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

 

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at thehands of your corporation.

 

As I said at the start I love your brand, I really do. It’s just a shame such a simple thing could bring it crashing to it’s knees and begging for sustenance.

 

Yours sincerely

 

The letter was written in a comical way, and it certainly got a reaction as Sir Richard Branson telephoned the writer to apologise.  

 

PLANNING

Before you begin your letter, ask yourself a series of questions.

 

Who am I writing to?

What is the purpose of my letter?

Do I have evidence to support my allegations?

What would be the ideal outcome for me?

 

EXAMPLE PROBLEM

An organisation that you bought an item from added an extra incentive to the purchase:  a gift voucher.  However, the gift voucher has not yet arrived and you are unhappy about it.

 

Who am I writing to?

Try and get as close as possible to the decision-maker on this.  Accept that the CEO of the company will probably not read your letter, but also a letter to a generic address will probably not be dealt with either.  

 

Mention your reference or account number if you have one, and mark it "For the attention of" to the person you are writing to.

 

What is the purpose of the letter?

A letter serves as a historical record of complaint, and does add some emphasis to your complaint.  Think about why you are writing a letter and not making a telephone call instead.  

 

Do I have the evidence?

If you have photographic evidence, or the name of a person that you spoke to before, then please use it.  Use as much information as you can to make your argument clear.

 

What is the ideal outcome?

Think about what you want from the business, and you can ask for it.  Be prepared to compromise if necessary.  

 

 

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