How to Answer a Complaint Letter

Posted by Charles M Cooper on Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Writing a good letter of complaint is fast becoming an art form all its own. Whether it contains profanity or not, a well-written complaint letter is a thing of beauty that often gets real results. In one example, a complaint letter written to Sir Richard Branson, complaining of the food on his Virgin flight from India to the UK, resulted in the letter writer being invited to be a taste tester for the new recipes under consideration for upcoming flights.

 

The real question is, though, short of an obvious publicity stunt, how do you handle the near-Shakespearean broadsides of over-dramatized dissatisfaction that the resentful and disillusioned, while possessed of a thesaurus and computer, might choose to fire in your direction?

 

Here is one fine example of how to manage it from our cousins across the pond. Its infuriatingly placid style, unquestioned civility, and the way it addresses even the most bizarre of Mr. Addison’s arguments seriously, should make this the rule by which all other replies to the rabid and spite-filled are measured.


Dear Mr Addison,

I am writing to you to express our thanks for your more than prompt reply to our latest communication, and also to answer some of the points you raise.

I will address them, as ever, in order.

Firstly, I must take issue with your description of our last as a "begging letter". It might perhaps more properly be referred to as a "tax demand". This is how we, at the Inland Revenue have always, for reasons of accuracy; traditionally referred to such documents.

Secondly, your frustration at our adding to the "endless stream of crapulent whining and panhandling vomited daily through the letterbox on to the doormat" has been noted. However, whilst I have naturally not seen the other letters to which you refer I would cautiously suggest that their being from "pauper councils, Lombardy pirate banking houses and pissant gas-mongerers" might indicate that your decision to "file them next to the toilet in case of emergencies" is at best a little ill-advised.

In common with my own organisation, it is unlikely that the senders of these letters do see you as a "lackwit bumpkin" or, come to that, a "sodding charity". More likely they see you as a citizen of Great Britain, with a responsibility to contribute to the upkeep of the nation as a whole.

Which brings me to my next point. Whilst there may be some spirit of truth in your assertion that the taxes you pay "go to shore up the canker-blighted, toppling folly that is the Public Services", a moment's rudimentary calculation ought to disabuse you of the notion that the government in any way expects you to "stump up for the whole damned party" yourself. The estimates you provide for the Chancellor's disbursement of the funds levied by taxation, whilst colourful, are, in fairness, a little off the mark. Less than you seem to imagine is spent on "junkets for Bunterish lickspittles" and "dancing whores" whilst far more than you have accounted for is allocated to, for example, "that box-ticking facade of a university system."

A couple of technical points arising from direct queries:
1. The reason we don't simply write "Muggins"
[a stupid or gullible person] on the envelope has to do with the vagaries of the postal system;
2. You can rest assured that "sucking the very marrows of those with nothing else to give" has never been considered as a practice because even if the Personal Allowance didn't render it irrelevant, the sheer medical logistics involved would make it financially unviable.

I trust this has helped. In the meantime, whilst I would not in any way wish to influence your decision one way or the other, I ought to point out that even if you did choose to "give the whole foul jamboree up and go and live in India" you would still owe us the money. Please forward it by Friday.

Yours Sincerely,
H J Lee Customer Relations

 

The Bottom Line

If nothing else, Mr. Lee’s letter to Mr. Addison shows that customer relations, whether that is a call center agent, someone answering letters or working a counter, can answer anyone with civility and grace if they just take the time. Remember, when all is said and done, phrases like “filthy puss-filled mire of your seemingly limitless inadequacy” are really just a consumer’s cry for help and a great opportunity for you to solve problems and improve your services!

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Charles M Cooper

Charles Cooper is the Web Editor for America’s Best Companies. He came to ABC with nearly twenty years of business and technology writing and editorial experience. In addition to ABC, Charles has been tapped to be a freelance business writer with the upcoming American edition of The China Daily, has served as a writer for HowStuffWorks.com and LovetoKnow.com and as senior editor for Gear Technology magazine. Contact Charles.

Tags: customer service, customer relations, complaint letters, complaint letter responses, inland revenue

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