How to Write a Letter of Complaint

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, so if you’ve had a bad experience with a company, use your mightiest weapon to get satisfaction!


Up next in How to Write a Letter (13 videos)

Learn how to pen a proper letter with the tips in these Howcast videos. Advice includes how to write a love letter, a letter of complaint, a thank you note, a sympathy card, a letter to the editor, and much more. Because there are some situations where email just won't do.

You Will Need

  • The name of the offending company’s CEO
  • A suggested reparation


  1. Step 1

    Go straight to the top

    Address your letter to the company’s CEO. His secretary will likely forward it to customer service with a personal note, sending your complaint to the top of the pile. In fact, research has found that this trick can triple your chances of a successful outcome.

  2. Step 2

    Include back-up

    State the problem and include any back-up materials, such as a sales receipt or any previous correspondence. This will show that you are a serious person who will not be ignored until your complaint is resolved.

  3. In addition to your address and phone number, include your email address for a speedy response.

  4. Step 3

    Be specific

    State exactly what the company can do to keep you as a customer, whether it’s a refund, store credit, or a replacement. If all you do is complain, chances are all you’ll get back by way of apology is a form letter.

  5. Include a reasonable date by which you expect to have a response--two weeks is fair. This will reduce the chances your complaint will land in someone’s to-do-whenever pile.

  6. Step 4

    Talk up your loyalty

    If you’re a longtime customer, say so! (And even if you aren’t, it doesn’t hurt to fudge a bit.) Companies do not want to lose loyal customers.

  7. Research shows that colorful words like 'appalled,' 'stunned,' or 'shocked,' get better results than quieter ones like 'upset.' Just don’t use more than three of these words, or you’ll end up sounding hostile.

  8. Step 5

    Make a vague, veiled threat

    Hint--in a polite, friendly way--what will happen if they don’t make things up to you. For example, say, 'I am surprised that no one has complained yet about your customer service in the online reviews I’ve read' to imply is that you might just add a disgruntled account.

  9. Step 6

    Keep it short

    Keep your letter short and to the point. Studies show that after about a page, or 200 words, people lose interest--and sympathy!

  10. Step 7

    Spell check

    Don’t forget to spell check your letter. Misspellings make the reader perceive you as unintelligent, which may make them not take your complaint as seriously.

  11. Step 8

    End on a positive note

    End by thanking the person 'in advance' for resolving the matter.

  12. Transportation services, like planes and trains, receive the most consumer complaints, according to a survey of professional online complaint services.