Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed!

Phillips, Ellen

What do you do when you have a problem with a product, a service, or a company? Do you just stew—or do you do something?

I am absolutely appalled at the rudeness and hostility exhibited today by one of your employees, and I am certain that you will be as shocked as I was when you learn of what has transpired.

I cannot believe that you have knowledge of or condone this type of abrasive and unprofessional behavior on the part of your employees. I expect an immediate investigation, a personal apology from Mr. Meany, and the removal of the spot on my carpet.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you within five business days.

The key to achieving satisfaction is to discuss your concerns.

Small business owners, in particular, often prefer to talk directly with customers who are having problems, and usually they will bend over backward to satisfy a good client.

As a business owner, I like to feel that we develop a long-term relationship with our clients. I hope that each client is comfortable enough to call when a problem arises, because we want to correct it as much as our client does.

If the person you are dealing with lacks the authority to fix your problem (that is, exchange the shirt or the television set), then politely ask to see the manager or the owner.

If your request for the meeting with the Big Boss is met, briefly explain your problem and indicate how you would like it to be resolved. It helps if you’ve been a patron of that business in the past; right now is the time to emphasize this point: your hard-earned cash has flowed into those gulping pockets and will continue to do so—if your request is granted.

On the off chance that this approach doesn’t work, you should start to seriously consider writing a letter. But first seek out as many senior people in the chain of command who will listen to you. Make sure you record the name of everyone with whom you speak—the helpful as well as the worthless ones. It’s important to note that occasionally your appeal will be granted simply because the person in charge wishes to get rid of you.

Calm down. Lower your voice. You have a better chance of being heard if you keep your head together and proceed methodically.

Tone down the rhetoric, don’t accuse, don’t curse, and don’t threaten.

Be polite but assertive.

Being polite will not only help you convey your point to the Top Dog; it will also help you get through to him or her.

Line up your facts. Have dates, names, invoice numbers, receipts, and so forth, at your fingertips.

happen to make it all better: replacement, repair, reimbursement

Tell them what you want. Clearly state what needs to happen to make it all better: replacement, repair, reimbursement

Most people would far rather settle a dispute, no matter how minor, if they know you mean business and are prepared to take the disagreement to a higher authority.

You will want to write a thoughtful and organized letter. No matter the merits of your situation, you’re less likely to get a satisfactory response if you write a long and incoherent letter that circles around the topic at hand.

Is there any correspondence that you yourself have already written? Send along a copy. It is a pay-better-attention heads up to the recipient that you have already addressed this problem in writing, and it sends the message that you don’t intend to give up and go away.

It’s far better to address your letter to a CEO/president and have it passed on to a vice president than it is to direct it to a manager and have the task delegated to his secretary for response.

It’s not to your advantage to come across as a rude or hostile person, even if you feel like vilely cursing over this problem.

Grab the reader’s attention at the beginning of the letter. After the salutation, an immediate attention getter is a must. It may only be one sentence, but it must catch the recipient’s eye. My favorites are “I am shocked and appalled at the unprofessional treatment to which I have been subjected by [company name] personnel” or “I am sure that you will be as shocked and appalled as I am over the recent incident I have experienced with company X.” This method will pique the curiosity of your reader, and it is a not-so-subtle encouragement to continue reading the rest of the letter.

Review the history.

Suggest that the company could lose your business

Hint that you may decline to have future dealings with the company in question.

State your expectations. Do you want a product repaired or replaced, do you want a refund, or will a simple apology make you feel all warm and fuzzy? If you don’t specify exactly what it is you want, then the recipient of your letter can only guess.

It’s always a grand idea to write that you “have been a loyal customer” (just as this beer drinker did) or even better, when you’re dealing with a large store or credit card company, a “faithful credit card holder for years” if such is the case.

Close firmly and politely. The last paragraph is where you should not only thank the reader but also let him or her know that you expect a quick answer. You can specify the need for a response “immediately,” or give a fixed period of time; for instance, “I expect to hear from you within two weeks [or one month] regarding this situation.” Although it has been my experience that most people rarely get a response quite as quickly as “within two weeks,” making such a request does place the brass on alert that you are not twiddling your thumbs and waiting around for the mail carrier.

quick action is not forthcoming, more poison will flow. In closing, be sure to say “thank you.” After all, this is a polite letter. The thanks is both for the recipient’s reading your letter as well as for the assistance you anticipate.

In closing, be sure to say “thank you.” After all, this is a polite letter. The thanks is both for the recipient’s reading your letter as well as for the assistance you anticipate.

The last dose of power—and often the most effective of all—now appears. Whenever appropriate, include a listing of people to whom you will mail copies of your letter, including officials at local, state, and/or national regulatory agencies, as well as professional organizations

Some people prefer not to do this the first time around; they would rather wait and see what type of response they receive; they may resort to using cc’s if they don’t receive a response or the problem isn’t solved to their satisfaction. I believe otherwise. Why do something twice when you can win the first time?

copying key people will definitely be the signal for your addressee to wake up and smell the coffee.

an extensive listing of agencies is at your fingertips via the Internet (

I always tell my clients that if a month passes with no satisfactory response—or certainly if they receive no response at all—to fire off another missive, along with a copy of the first letter to anyone and everyone on your carbon copy list.

the secret is that you hang on, you harangue, you harass, you document your efforts, you build a paper trail. You may get discouraged, but you must not forfeit the fight. This is your cause, and you must see it through until the end.

What is so shocking is the atrocious manner in which I was treated, the number of trips I had to make to Hardluck, and the eventual need to pay for the services of an electrician. It is obvious that I along with every other customer cannot depend upon your guaranteed satisfaction policy. It is even worse to think that one can be a loyal credit card customer for years and be treated so horribly.

I am certain that you will resolve this matter to my satisfaction immediately by providing me with a credit for the second, working light fixture. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you within the next ten business days.

Most heads of companies really are appreciative of a complaint letter as long as that letter is set forth in the manner I have described. Many, many of my clients have been greatly amazed at the steps that company leaders have been willing to take to correct a problem.

Avoid name-calling by pairing nouns with adjectives, such as “the rude salesclerk.” Refer to the “clerk” and then state that in your opinion the treatment you received was “rude.” Depersonalize the offending parties as much as possible, and concentrate on the effect their conduct had. More probably than not, it’s the effect that will get you results anyway, and the cause will either be forgotten or only serve to impact someone else’s livelihood.*

Rule 240 requires that as a passenger you be placed on another flight if there is another flight that can get you to your destination sooner than the one they picked for you, even if it means travelling on another airline!

Rule 380, is equally satisfying; it states that you are entitled to meals, a hotel room, transportation to and from the airport, and a three-minute long-distance phone call. (Depending on the airline, these expenses are covered up front or reimbursed.)

Don’t allow the customer service representative to use his or her own talking talents to persuade you to accept a voucher as a replacement gesture unless that is what you want. You have the right to demand cash, and if you don’t get it, you can actually sue.

have just been through an exasperating and unbearable fiasco with Unfeeling Airlines, involving travel delays, lost and damaged luggage, and rude treatment from Unfeeling personnel.

I have travelled with Unfeeling for years, but I would not dream of flying with your airline again given my last two experiences. I am sending my replacement clothing and essentials receipt to Los Angeles, but I also insist that my suitcase be replaced.

Maybe you are mired in red tape and don’t know whom to petition. Your state and federal representatives can be of help to put you in touch with someone with the power to make a difference.

I trust that you agree with me and that your vote will demonstrate your allegiance to what is only the right thing to do.

On numerous occasions I have been distressed and dismayed about the disruption above my apartment, in apartment #203, home to Mr. and Mrs. Brown. As the landlord of SS Apartments, you need to be made aware of this problem.

Dear Mr. President: I wish to express my gratitude for both your personal understanding and your intervention with my Social Security appeal. You were my very last recourse for resolving an almost impossible situation. Your personal decision to accelerate the arduous process has quite literally saved my life, and I am deeply grateful. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely,