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Korrespondenz auf Englisch - Beschwerdebriefe schreiben

Schlagwörter: Korrespondenz auf Englisch, Beschwerdebriefe auf Englisch, Beschweren auf Englisch, Beschwerde auf Englisch, Englisch beschweren

Most people associate the word complaint in business with something negative: badly designed products, manufacturing errors, poor service, etc. Being accused of such things in a complaint letter is, of course, quite unpleasant. That's why - before approximately 1980 - most businesses chose to take a defensive stance against such complaints. Customer complaint letters were often met with excuses, counter-claims and even sometimes pointing the finger back at the consumer.

After 1980, business culture changed. Most managers realised that more business was to be had by responding openly and positively to complaints, by making dissatisfied customers happy and by using complaints as an opportunity for improvement. The result was a better reputation for reliability and customer service, satisfied customers bringing repeat business and improved product lines and service procedures.

Today's complaint is now viewed as constructive consumer feedback. Rather than being taken as a personal attack, a complaint is viewed as an important opportunity to improve a company's competitive position. This has an impact not only on a company's complaint-handling behaviour, but also on the way complaints are made.

This is especially true of complaint letters, where what is said about who did what - or who didn't - becomes a matter of legal record.

The right mindset
The fact that business correspondence is archived - in most western countries this is now required by law - is only one reason why complaint letters should be professionally worded. Another is human psychology. Business is no place for taking potshots, displaying anger or making open threats. Such behaviour inevitably detracts from the complainer's credibility. On the other hand, letters that are well-written, professionally presented and communicated in a friendly, factual manner are most likely to be taken seriously.

In general, business complaints should be made with the following in mind:

partnership: a "we're the customer and you're the vendor" attitude is generally not constructive. Instead, a "we're in it together" approach produces better results.

problem solving: a factual presentation of the problem, its measurable result and suggested remedies will receive better attention than a simple complaint without an accompanying suggestion for problem resolution.

relationship management: pitting your company against another in a complaint letter is a good way to take an existing good relationship down the wrong path at high speed. It's better to assume that the relationship is and will remain good, and that the companies are and will remain friends. This of course is obvious when considering that people are generally more enthusiastic about solving a friend's problem than solving an enemy's problem.

The tone of complaint letters must thus be:


  • professional: no one wants to deal with someone who does not behave professionally


  • factual: stating the facts takes the focus away from finger-pointing and puts the focus on problem-solving


  • friendly and non-threatening: people are more likely to help friends than enemies. Threats should be reserved for the very last step in the process, after the relationship has been destroyed


  • considerate: the person reading your letter is a person, not a company - you want this person on your side

The primary goal of a complaint letter
In a day when most business professionals are deluged with correspondence, time is an important factor. Letters that are well-written and positive have a good chance of being thoroughly read. Unprofessionally written, complex or unclear letters will only receive a brief skim. The danger of a skim is that your letter will most likely be categorised as a standard, low-priority situation. This will result in a form-letter response with a canned problem resolution that may not take your company's actual business relationship into account.

To get read thoroughly and receive personalised attention, a complaint letter must identify itself as something worth reading carefully, and then persuade the reader to take action. One other type of correspondence has this same essential quality: the sales letter. Yes! A complaint letter is a variation on a sales letter! Selling yourself and your problem is the most likely way to get the fastest buy-in.

Structure of a complaint letter
Understanding that a complaint letter needs to take a sales approach immediately leads to the conclusion that it should be structured like a good sales letter: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). The AIDA approach has a clear effect on the presentation of information, and requires inclusion of the following elements in the following order:

A - Attention
The heading and possibly the first few sentences: identification of the issue, names of products, services or people, any relevant reference codes.

I - Interest
Statement of facts: include the relevant dates and details without the injection of statements that make assumptions about reasons.

D - Desire
Statement of desired resolution: describe what you'd like to happen to resolve the complaint. It's also a good idea - depending on the situation - to state that you'll be flexible in the joint effort to find a satisfactory solution.

A - Action
Call to action: this should be a positive, friendly request that sounds like the indicated action will result in a continuing, satisfied, loyal customer.

An important part of your action statement is your sign-off. Rather than making a simple "I look forward to hearing from you" exit, it's often more effective to include a compliment about your normal, positive experience with the organisation's products and services. Why do you like them? Why have you been a loyal customer until now?

Appearance is important
Like any other sales letter, your complaint letter must appear professional and approachable. This affects formatting, but usually requires nothing more than a standard business letter layout on your company's letterhead (see Writing Effective Business Letters in the 2007/09 OBET). Of course a professional letter will also be free from spelling and grammar errors. This means running your letter not only through the spelling and grammar checker, but also past another pair of eyes - if possible those of a native-speaker.

The other part of the appearance game is approachability. If your letter seems long, complex or filled with too many details, it's also less likely to be thoroughly read. If your complaint requires presentation of significant detail, it's best to make your letter short and present the detail in an attached document.


Important complaint letter phrases

Attention


Faulty PrintRight 32m

Malfunctioning switching equipment - Ref# 33X4000H

Malfunctioning switching equipment - Trouble ticket 33X4000H

Onsite customer service problem

Continuing/Outstanding customer service problem - Ref# 33X4000H



Interest

On 4 January, 2007, we purchased a XXX model 34 from amazing.co.uk.

Unfortunately...

I?m afraid ...

I would like to call your attention to ...

The product has not performed according to our expectations.

The enclosed software does not meet our expectations/ does not function as expected.

The PrintRight 32m we recently purchased does not function as documented in the accompanying user guide.

One of your repairman, John Smythe, visited us on 3 March to remedy a problem with a PrintRight 32m we purchased from your company last year.

This has been a continuing problem.

We were billed the wrong amount.

This is the third onsite visit this year by someone on your team for the same problem.

We are disappointed because ...

    ... we had hoped that ...

    ... the description of the product claimed that ...



Desire

To resolve the problem, I would like/appreciate ...

I would be grateful if you could send a replacement for this unit and refund my postage costs.

I would like to speak with someone about replacing this unit with another model that may meet our expectations better.

Can I ask that you look into this matter personally and ensure that your repairman is properly equipped to solve the problem during his next visit?

Please contact me using the number below to ...

    ... schedule the next visit.

    ... discuss potential solutions.

I would like a complete/partial refund of our purchase price/service fees.

I have enclosed copies of ...

I would also like to ask you to ...

Copies of our invoices and our service agreement are enclosed.

A detailed description of the problem is enclosed, along with pertinent supporting documentation.

To appreciate our situation, it's important to properly understand the impact of our problem.

Please contact me using the number below to schedule this visit and to discuss the relevant details.



Action

I would really appreciate your help.

I look forward to your reply within the next two weeks.

I greatly appreciate your help with this matter.

I/We will continue to remain a loyal customer, as I/we have been very satisfied with your products/services in the past.

To conclude, I would like to add that our firm has been a loyal customer for ...

I feel that this situation is an exception to the rule, and feel confident that you will be able to swiftly resolve this problem to our satisfaction.

I hope that we can resolve this issue swiftly and thank you for your assistance.



Statements that set a friendly, non-threatening, constructive tone

I/We realise that mistakes happen.

I'm/We're sure this is a relatively rare problem/ issue ...

However ...

We hope that ...

Schlagwörter: Korrespondenz auf Englisch, Beschwerdebriefe auf Englisch, Beschweren auf Englisch, Beschwerde auf Englisch, Englisch beschweren

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