A formal complaint letter is still the most effective way to get your money back, whether you are a business or a consumer.
I recently discovered that my travel insurance didn’t cover me when my flight to Munich was cancelled due to weather conditions.
The wording on the policy was misleading, so I wrote to complain and I got my money back, with an apology. They also changed the policy wording to prevent the same thing happening to someone else.You can see what I wrote here at consumer complaint letter.
So here are five steps for writing a letter of complaint that will help you get the results you want.
1:Write a Structure
First jot down the points you want to make. Don’t worry about the sequence yet, just get all the points down. Then put the points in a logical order. This may be chronological, but if you have a number of issues it may make more sense to prioritise them, with the most serious point first. Each point will be a separate paragraph – for example:
- Why I’m writing
- Policy wording misleading
- Inappropriate travel cover
- What I want
The first last paragraph should always be the purpose of your letter and can be very short. For example:
I am writing to complain about your Bronze Travel Insurance product.
The last paragraph should be the action you want from the reader. Putting this at the end of the letter greatly increases the chances of it getting done. If you bury it somewhere at the beginning or middle of your letter it is likely to be forgotten.
2:Fill in the Detail
Then write down the facts and figures that support each point under the appropriate paragraph heading. Get all the information you need to hand. Make sure the facts are accurate (and therefore indisputable) and relevant to the point you are making. Irrelevant facts and weak arguments will only dilute your message.
Don’t skip this step – it will make the actual process of writing your complaint letter easier, and ensure you stay accurate and focused.
3:Write in Plain English
A good complaint letter is clear, concise and unambiguous. The most effective style is plain English, which is different to the traditional formal English you may have been taught at school.
Also, very important – avoid being emotional or sarcastic in your letter. While it might make you feel better in the short term, it will annoy your reader making them less likely to help you. By all means explain that you are angry or upset, but don’t threaten or try to shame your reader into action (unless you want the hassle of going to court over it).
Hardly anyone can write a perfect letter in one draft, so always print out your letter and check it before you send it. Ideally get a friend or member of your family to read it too. Checking your writing is a two-step process. First copyedit, or read it through for sense. Check for things like repetition, ambiguity, logic gaps and wordiness. You might need to add or delete words, or move things around.
This is when you check things like spelling, punctuation, facts and figures. Most people prefer to do either one or other of these processes when they check their work, and often miss things as a result. Breaking it into two steps is easier as you use different parts of your brain to edit and proofread.
You may get a result by sending an email, but you will increase the chances considerably if you send it in the post.
Many companies are still more efficient at handling post, and investing in an envelope and a stamp shows you mean business.