"Be the Change" Idea #2: Write A {constructive} Complaint Letter

What do you do when you:

  • get really poor customer service at a restaurant?
  • buy a product that turns out to be a piece of junk?
  • watch a movie that was not at all worth your while?
  • walk in a store that is disorganized only to discover that there are NO service associates to help you?
  • go to a doctor's appointment and end up waiting an hour to be seen?

Most people's automatic tendency is to fume and vent and then go about the day with a little cloud over their heads, animation-style.

Instead of doing that, however, you have another option: write a constructive complaint letter.

Point of clarification: When I say "complaint letter," I don't mean that you sit down and write a scorchingly spiteful message that ends with, "give me my money back/you better change something fast...or else."

On the contrary, think of what could have been better and then share that information, along with the negatives of your experience. You certainly can request your money back too (depending on the circumstance), but it's important that you offer the company some valuable feedback. How can they improve? What can they do better? What ideas do you have to help the company (or person)?

"HELP THE COMPANY/PERSON?," you are probably shouting at me in upper-case letters, "That company/person does NOT deserve to be helped." Maybe, maybe not. BUT the only way they can improve (and you can feel truly better about it) is to communicate your experience clearly.

dear-mr-president-letter-to-the-presidentI write letters to companies and change-makers fairly regularly. I write store managers, restaurant owners, politicians, and movie producers. I've even written to the President of the United States (note that the image on the right does not show the proper address; click on the link to find out how you can really write the president).

The results have usually been extremely positive (except for the Pres...he didn't reply). The company often apologizes. The product/service sometimes improves. Sometimes, the brand will even send me a gift card or product to say "thank you." Most importantly, I feel satisfied that I made a tiny contribution to making the world better.

On the flip side, it's also important to write letters when you get exceptionally good service or when a product knocks your sock off or when a person's kindness totally rocks your world. A nice "thank you" goes a long way.

Oh and you know those customer satisfaction surveys that you get in the mail or that are hanging on the wall in various shops? I'm the nerd who always fills them out - with comments in the "tell us more" section, no less.

YOUR TURN: Do you ever write complaint/compliment letters?

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12 comments on “"Be the Change" Idea #2: Write A {constructive} Complaint Letter”

  1. I think it says a lot about a company/practice/store on how they respond, and if they respond at all. I too, find that usually most upstanding businesses are thankful for my input and always seem to make an effort to address the problem/situation.

  2. I am a big believer of writing letters - although I have found in some cases, a phone call is needed because letters can get ignored easily.

  3. This is something I don't do as often as I should. I'm with Nell though - I do usually take the time to talk to someone at the store or restaurant about really good service and sometimes the really bad service.

    Thanks for the reminder to do this a little more often!

  4. I don't do it very often, but I do occasionally write letters or make phone calls. And you're right; sometimes they do send coupons or gift cards. That was a nice touch, and made me more likely to remain a customer (and a happy one).

  5. I think its easy to complain, but when things go well I feel we should also speak up. Like you said, a thank you goes a long way. I think companies want to better when they get a thank you :)

  6. I most often write a letter of praise for companies that provide products that are "Made in USA"
    And I have made a couple comments directly to office managers.
    But I need to do it more! Thanks for the reminder.

  7. I can't say that I have. Now I have spoken to management while still in the store. I've also spoken to management to rave about great customer service.


  8. I really need to remember to do this more often. I usually leave a store/restaurant/ AIRPLANE and say I am going to write a letter and then "never get around to it". The few times I have done it I did receive a response (haven't tried Obama yet though). Usually it makes me feel a little better about the situation knowing I have it off my chest.

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