If you have a consumer gripe about a product or service that didn't live up to your expectations, one of the best ways to ensure your concerns are taken seriously is by writing a complaint letter. Although it may be difficult to determine the best way to start a complaint letter, there are a number of different strategies you can take.

Addressing the Letter

Addressing your complaint letter to a specific person will reduce the likelihood that your letter will be ignored or "fall through the cracks." Start your letter by addressing it to the specific person who is empowered to respond to your complaint. Don't forget to include that person's title. Typically a company's website will have information regarding who or where to direct customer complaints. Before writing your letter do some research to make sure you send it to the appropriate person.

Get to the Point

Start with a short heading that references the issue you're trying to resolve, before your first paragraph, with as many specifics as possible. For example, if your complaint is about an airline flight, include the date of travel, route and flight number. After the heading your first paragraph should summarize the complaint. Get to the point quickly, in the first sentence of your first paragraph, and outline the specific complaints related to the company's goods or services. Include as many details as you can while remaining concise and respectful.

Begin with a Positive

Another method of starting a complaint letter is by using your first paragraph to say something positive about the company's products or services before launching into your complaint. This approach puts the reader in a less adversarial position, which may lead him to be more willing to work with you to address your complaint. Begin your first sentence with a favorable experience you had with the company in the past, highlighting some of the company's positive attributes, and then outline the nature of your complaint in your second sentence or paragraph.

General Tips

USA.gov offers tips on how to write an effective complaint letter, noting that often a hard-copy letter sent in the mail is the most effective way to contact a company. Also you'll likely get better results if you use a direct, non-confrontational tone; an angry, threatening or sarcastic letter may be less effective than a letter that's calm and rational. In addition, you should clearly state precisely how you'd like the problem to be resolved. Finally, document every step you take and each letter you write, and keep copies.