Business Writing: Claim Letters

Characteristics of Effective Letters of Complaint

" Calm down," says Ellen Phillips. "You may have the best argument in the world, but if you precede it with verbal abuse and you direct unnecessary anger at the person to whom you are speaking, you've already lost both the battle and the war" ( Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed!: How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results, 1999). (PeskyMonkey/Getty Images)

A claim letter is a persuasive letter sent by a customer to a business or agency to identify a problem with a product or service and can also be referred to as a letter of complaint. 

Typically, a claim letter opens (and sometimes closes) with a request for adjustments, such as a refund, replacement, or payment for damages, though a cordial opening paragraph about the transaction or product may be preferred.

As a method of business writing, claim letters are sent as a legally binding form of communication which can serve as evidence if a claim is taken to court. In most cases, court appearances are not required because the business recipient typically drafts a reply in the form of an adjustment letter, which settles the claim.

Main Elements of a Claim Letter

Most business professionals and scholars agree that a basic claim letter should include four core elements: a clear explanation of the complaint, an explanation of what strife this has caused or the losses suffered because of it, an appeal to honesty and fairness, and a statement of what you would consider a fair adjustment in return.

Preciseness in the explanation is pivotal to the claim being settled quickly and effectively, so a claim writer should provide as much detail about the defectiveness of a product or the fault in service received, including date and time, the amount is cost and receipt or order number, and any other detail that help define exactly what went wrong.

The inconvenience this fault has caused and an appeal to the reader's humanity and compassion are equally important in getting what the writer wants out of the claim. This provides the reader motivation to act on the writer's request promptly in order to rectify the situation and maintain the customer as a client.

As R.C. Krishna Mohan writes in "Business Correspondence and Report Writing" that in order "to secure a prompt and satisfactory response, a claim letter is usually written to the head of the unit or the department responsible for the mistake." 

Tips for an Effective Letter

The tone of the letter should be kept to at least a business casual level, if not business formal, in order to maintain a professionalism to the request. Furthermore, the writer should pen the complaint with the assumption that the request will be granted upon receipt.

L. Sue Baugh, Maridell Fryar and David A. Thomas write in "How to Write First-Class Business Correspondence" that you should "make your claim accurately and tactfully," and that it is best to "avoid threats, accusations, or veiled hints about what you will do if the matter isn't solved promptly."

Kindness goes a long way in the customer service world, so it's better to appeal to the humanity of the recipient by stating how the problem has affected you personally rather than threatening to boycott the company or slander its name. Accidents happen and mistakes are made — there's no reason to be uncivil.

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Business Writing: Claim Letters." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Business Writing: Claim Letters. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Business Writing: Claim Letters." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).