“Don’t complain about things you’re not willing to change.”
If you’ve ever had to make an official written complaint to an organisation, you’ll know how hard it can be to construct that letter. You need to get the tone right, use your words carefully and ensure your opinion is clearly stated without too much emotion (especially if it is a letter to your Human Resources or senior management.)
In this week’s lesson, I am delighted to introduce you to a new guest blogger to EWAT. Julie Petersen advises students mainly on academic writing. However, she asked me if she could share her tips on how to construct a good business complaint letter that would get results.
In this lesson, she shows you how to write that most difficult of complaint letters – the one to senior management or HR where you share your dissatisfaction about an aspect of your job or a colleague.
Listen While You Read
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Here is Julie Petersen.
Is there an ideal job with only positive aspects to it? If you’re like most people, you’ll face both good and bad things about being an employee.
Sometimes you’re mistreated. Maybe you have a problem with the way things work in the company. Maybe you’re getting lower pay than someone who’s doing the exact same job.
Your first step is to talk to the person you have a problem with. Do your best to solve the matter in a civilized way. Give your arguments and explain why you believe you’ve been mistreated. If that doesn’t work, you’ll talk to your supervisor. If you don’t get the response you expected, you’ll have to take the next step: write a letter of complaint to your HR.
No one wants to complain, right? A letter sounds too official especially as you have to write it in a perfect business tone. Although you won’t like the procedure, it’s the only way to get what you deserve. The only question is: how do you write this letter?
If you start looking for sample complaint letters, you’ll mostly find examples that buyers address to companies. Consumers often complain about the products and services they get.
In business writing, however, the approach is slightly different. The tone should be more professional and you must never show anger.
Here are 5 important tips to help you write an effective complaint letter.
#Tip One: Be Objective
If you’re desperately trying to fix a problem, you shouldn’t do it with an aggressive approach. Do not blame anyone in the complaint letter. Your anger will kill your arguments, so your employer won’t feel like you’re being objective. Don’t let your ego show through the letter either.
Remember: business writing should be based on facts. Support your complaints with real examples.
“The supervisor set the deadline to May 22. I have an email message to prove that. I was blamed for being late on May 20, although the project was going well and it was ready by the deadline that was initially set.”
You see? Facts. That’s what matters in an effective complaint letter.
#Tip Two: Keep To The Point
Don’t write a lengthy introduction. Many people decide to give an intro that sounds like this: “Dear Mr. M, I’ve been working for this company for 10 years and you know how hard I’ve always tried to help it grow.” Don’t tell the employer what they know or don’t know. Instead of wasting their time with vague claims, focus on the point: why are you writing a complaint letter?
Dear Mr. M,
I am writing to seek your assistance in resolving an issue with my supervisor, Mr. Roberts. This is a problem I wasn’t able to solve without bringing it to your attention. I hope you will help us come down to a quick and amicable solution.
That sounds better for an introduction, doesn’t it?
#Tip Three: Include All Important Details
These are the mandatory things to include in a complaint letter:
- Your name, position, and contact information (email address and contact number);
- The name and position of the person you’re addressing the letter to;
- The main factors of your complaint: the incident and the date when it happened; the names of the people involved in the issue; names of witnesses, if there were any; the way you tried to solve the issue without asking for assistance
- If you can think of a reasonable solution for this situation, feel free to suggest it in the body of the complaint letter.
#Tip Four: Keep it brief
You don’t expect this person to read an entire essay from someone complaining about something, right?
Senior management or HR don’t have time for that.
Outline the issue in brief sentences and paragraphs. Make it easy to read.
The typical complaint letter consists of an introduction, body, and conclusion.
In the introduction, you raise the issue and you explain how you tried to solve it, but you still need the assistance of this person.
In the body of the letter, you’ll get into details. Explain the situation and stick to the facts. Explain how you tried to solve the matter informally, but things didn’t work out as expected.
In the conclusion, ask this person for a chance to invite you and the other involved parties to a meeting, so you can discuss the matter in person.
A one-page letter/email works best. It’s not too short, so it shows you have something important to say. It’s not too long, so it won’t waste the reader’s time.
Don’t forget to check your grammar. You can use a tool like Hemingway App to make the sentences more readable. Always make sure you’re writing in an easy-to-understand language.
#Tip Five: Never Use Offensive Language
“I believe that Mr. Roberts is a rude, undereducated person with bad manners. He doesn’t deserve a spot in this company and he makes the entire team miserable with his presence.”
Don’t do that! You might have really bad feelings towards this person who mistreated you at work, but you must not get offensive in the attempt to defend yourself. Do not show anger. Remember the first tip: stay objective!
Writing a letter of complaint is normally the last resort and should be treated seriously. Make sure you’ve exhausted all informal ways of solving the issue before you decide to complain to senior management. Hopefully the tips above will give you some helpful guidelines.
Thank you, Julie for your valuable tips.
Have you ever had to write a letter of complaint? How did you find the writing experience? Was the issue resolved satisfactorily?
Have you had to write it in English? What was it like?
Julie Petersen is an English tutor and a writer from California, USA. She is a founder of the educational blog for students askpetersen.com. Follow Julie on Twitter.
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Ciao for now