No matter how much effort you put into customer satisfaction, some things might still go wrong. If you’re unlucky, customers will feel so frustrated that they’ll send you a letter or email giving you a piece of their mind. And, you need to respond to de-escalate the situation if you can.This email is often difficult to write without getting defensive – but you must resist! To help you identify the best possible response, we built a series of customer complaint response templates and have provided a few tips so you won’t have to start from scratch.
How to write an effective customer complaint response
Overview of email content
This email should:
- Acknowledge the customer’s frustration. Be understanding, there’s no point trying to convince a customer they’ve got this wrong. If you need to point out where they’re wrong to provide a solution, start by empathizing with them and go on to say something akin to “This shouldn’t normally be happening, so I’d be happy to look into it” or “Sorry, we’ve been amiss in communicating about this, here’s an updated article you can check out.”
- Offer explanations. But without sounding defensive. Focus on helping the customer understand why something happened instead of refuting their complaint. This could include a reason that was outside of your control or taking full responsibility for a mistake.
- Avoid non-apologies. This often happens with brands that give half-hearted apologies and then get slammed for them online. It’s easy to fall into this trap, especially if the customer isn’t completely justified in their complaint. So, avoid phrases like “We’re sorry you feel this way” or “We apologize if we caused problems.” Opt for “We’re sorry we inconvenienced you” or “You’re right, we take full responsibility for what happened.”
- Suggest redeeming actions. If you can provide immediate help on a problem or even offer a discount, coupon, or another benefit to the customer, go ahead. It’s important to show your customer that you take their complaint seriously and want to alleviate their concern, but also that you’re actively trying to solve the problem instead of just apologizing.
- Show calmness and respect. Customers aren’t always right, but it’s never a good strategy to antagonize them – don’t forget they could well spread the word and damage your brand. Staying calm might be difficult if the customer is aggressive, so try to step back and look at the situation objectively (this will be easier to do if you’re communicating via email or live chat, rather than on the phone).
How to use our template
Any words included in brackets are placeholder text you can replace with whatever makes the most sense for your business (or remove altogether if it doesn’t apply to you).Feel free to modify this template as you see fit. Insert a touch of personality, but, try to keep the tone positive and respectful.
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Here’s a template for a customer complaint response letter you can send via email:
Re: your complaint (we're sorry)
Hi [Customer name], I’m very sorry you had this experience. It’s always important for us to [mention the requirement the customer referred to]. We acknowledge that we failed you this time by [re-state the customer complaint].This was likely caused by [add brief explanation], but, regardless, we should have handled this better.I’ve passed this on to my team – we’ll make sure we use this experience to grow and learn as a team. Thank you for your patience. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help.I apologize again for any inconvenience.[Your name]
7 examples of customer complaint response templates
The template acts as the starting point for responding to different situations, but you should modify it to add a personal touch or any relevant information. We created seven different examples to show how the template can be adjusted.
Email template example 1: Customer service complaint
Imagine you receive a complaint about a customer being on hold for a long time while trying to reach customer support. This is a situation that might occur often, and it’s also sometimes not your team’s fault. However, the first thing to do is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. We’ve all been held up on the phone at some point in our lives and it’s not pleasant. So, the best strategy is to be humble and understanding.Here’s the response email you could send:Hi Lou,I’m very sorry you had to go through this experience. It’s important for us to respond to customers quickly and efficiently, but we failed you this time. Making you wait an hour on hold is unacceptable – I know too well it’s a situation that can ruin your day. This was caused by our recent product launch which created a surge of phone calls and live chat requests from interested customers. Our team was briefly overwhelmed, but we acknowledge we should have moved faster to find a solution.I’ve passed your thoughts on to my team – we’ll make sure we use this experience to grow and learn as a team. Thank you for your patience and I hope your issue was eventually resolved. If not, let me know if I can help in any way. I apologize again for any inconvenience.Mara
Email template example 2: Purchasing complaint
This example refers to a situation where something went wrong with the purchasing process. This could include a defective item or a delay in delivery. Let’s say for this example that the customer is complaining their order was delayed. Because this is the most important part of customer experience (actually getting what you paid for), your email should apologize and include a redeeming action.Here’s the response email you could send:Hi Maria,I’m very sorry there was trouble with your order. It’s always important for us to deliver our products quickly and seamlessly. We acknowledge that we failed you this time by delaying your order for two weeks. This was caused by some technical problems with our supply chain system outside of our control, but we should have made sure there was good communication about this on our part.I’ve passed this on to my team – we’ll make sure we use this experience to grow and learn as a team. As an additional way to apologize, we created this exclusive code you can use to get a $10 discount on your next purchase: GTF458926579.Thank you for your patience. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help. Lara
Email template example 3: Sales complaint
This complaint may include a miscommunication about pricing or delivery costs or a hiccup in the sales process. Let’s say your salespeople misbilled the customer for delivery to their country. In this case, acknowledge the mistake and offer a refund.Here’s the response email you could send:Hi Mora,I’m very sorry you had this experience. It’s always important for us to bill our customers properly and we know we failed you this time by charging you an extra $50 for delivery. I looked into your case and I concluded the overbilling was caused by one of our salespeople failing to register your discount coupon. I made him aware of this and I pass on his apologies to you. Here at Acme, we work with a live and learn mentality and we fully acknowledge our mistakes. I’ve arranged for a refund – you should be able to see the amount returned to your account in 2-3 business days.Thank you for your patience. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help. Hans
Email template example 4: Complaint about lack of a feature or service
Sometimes, customers expect your product or service to have certain characteristics. They might complain about not getting them. In these cases, you can be both polite and firm so as not to raise any false expectations, or reassure the customer that what they’re asking for will soon be available.Let’s say that in this example, the customer is asking for something you have no plans to add to your service.Here’s the response email you could send:Hi Carl,It’s always important for us to cater to our customer needs as much as possible, so I’m very sorry we couldn’t deliver what you expected. We’re always open to improving our services so thank you for bringing this up.Shipping to the Galapagos is not currently in our plans and I wouldn’t like to make a promise we can’t keep. I can promise, though, that I will let our Supply Director know about your request to expand our services to your new location.Thank you for your patience. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help. Charlie
Email template example 5: Complaint about an employee
When customers complain about a specific employee, the nature of that complaint matters. If the customer claims the employee swore at them, harassed them or was offensive, then keep your response straightforward. In these cases, investigate the complaint thoroughly and take disciplinary action immediately.But, how do you respond if the complaint is less serious? For example, if a salesperson was unwelcomingly pushy? Or if a customer service agent couldn’t find a solution for the customer even though they tried? Then, your responsibility is to acknowledge the frustration of the customer but also make sure you openly support your employee (this is an important moment to cultivate trust with your colleagues).Here’s the response email you could send:Hi Raj,I’m very sorry you had this experience with my colleague. We take our professionalism and customer-oriented approach very seriously, so thanks for speaking out.I have had a discussion with Beth and we went over your written communication with her. While I acknowledge her manner was curt and she didn’t find the solution fast enough, I’m confident she had your best interest at heart and she genuinely wanted to help you. She will grow and learn through experience as we all try to do here at Acme, so she can provide better service next time.Thank you for your patience and I apologize we inconvenienced you. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help. Kamala
Email template example 6: Complaint about insurance
Insurance is a painful topic for many, especially in the US. The insurance industry is doing its best to improve customer experience and digitize their processes, but some things still go wrong. Claims get denied, communication or coverage issues arise, and more.If you’re in the insurance industry, let’s say for this example the customer is complaining about a homeowner’s insurance claim that got denied. This is one of the rare cases when you can afford not to apologize in your response email. But, you should still be respectful, and understand the customer’s plight (without appearing inauthentic).Here’s the response email you could send:Keep in mind this template is for reference only. Any legal implications or restrictions have not been accounted for. Neither Acquire nor the writer will take any legal responsibility for misuse of this template.Hi Ms. Jackson,I’m very sorry about this situation. It’s always important for us to keep our customers satisfied and make fair decisions. That’s why our claim evaluation processes are strict and we take into account all details to decide what’s the right course of action.We’ve taken a look at your claim and it seems our agent followed protocol and our official instructions to assess it. At this point, we stand by his report.However, I’ve passed this on to my team so we can look into it further – we always want to be 100% sure we’ve made the correct decision. I can’t promise anything, but we will do everything possible to find a solution for you, if there is one. Thank you for your patience. If you need anything else, let me know if I can help.Kayla
Email template example 7: Complaint about telecom service
Telecom isn’t a huge favorite with customers. It’s likely you’ll have to handle a lot of complaints from frustrated users.At this point, the nature of the complaint will shape your response. If the customer is saying they don’t have a good WiFi signal, then you’ll probably arrange for a technician to check it out. If the customer is saying they think they’re paying too much, your approach will be different. Let’s say the latter situation applies for our example.Here’s the response email you could send:Hi Mr. Jones,Thanks for your message – it’s always important for us to keep our users happy. Generally, we try to keep our pricing tied to the quality of our services. As we make improvements and implement better technology for our customers, this will often be reflected in our pricing.Specifically to your account, you’re currently on the month-to-month internet and landline plan. This is our best value package for short-term commitment. However, if you’re satisfied with our service, you can get a 15% monthly discount by upgrading to the yearly plan.Another option would be to subscribe to our triple bundle plan (internet-landline-mobile). This costs an extra $5 per month, but you can compare this amount to what you’re already paying for your current plan plus your mobile bill. If our option is more cost-effective, I can set you up pretty quickly.Let me know what you think or if you have other questions. I’d be happy to jump to a phone call with you to discuss further.Jackie