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
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.
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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