The self-healing letter of complaint
You’ve been wronged. The service was terrible. You went unseen, disrespected and abused. You didn’t get your money’s worth. The software is sloppy, the people were rude, the entire experience was lousy.
A letter to the organization is called for. At the very least, you’ll get an apology, some free samples, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll fix the problem for everyone who comes after you. How generous of you to dig in and share the vitriol.
Better put a sharp point on it, personalize it and make it sting.
Here’s the thing: Every angry word you write is only going to confirm the story you’re already telling yourself, the story that’s still making you miserable. The more spite you put into the note, the worse you’re going to feel. You’ll relive the event again and again. And, it’s pretty certain, if a human reads the note, they’ll now feel lousy too. They might go home and kick their dog, it’s that visceral.
To what end? Is it going to increase the chances that change happens?
Here’s a different tack, a selfish one that pays off for everyone involved:
Write the most positive note you can imagine. Write about how much the brand/service/government agency means to you. Let them know just how much you trust them, how much they’ve helped you in the past. Lay it on thick, that’s okay, it’ll remind you of why you care in the first place, and it will build bridges instead of tearing them down.
Then, say, “Here’s what didn’t work” or “But I have an important suggestion…”
And, without adding the hurt and anger that you feel, explain what went wrong. Explain it clearly, in a useful way, but give the reader the benefit of the doubt. Assume she knows that it didn’t make you happy, that it completely ruined your wedding, that you’re never ever going to return. Just leave that part out.
After all, if you didn’t care about them, you wouldn’t bother writing a letter, would you?
Two things will probably happen:
- When you hit ‘send’ you’re going to feel better about yourself and the process you just engaged in, and
- It’s more likely that the long-suffering recipient of your note will actually take action
We can change the stories we tell ourselves.