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Mar 29, 2021


How to respond to customer complaints

Learn how to respond to customer complaints via email with our example, and soon you'll be dealing with unhappy customers like an expert.

Blog writer

Ruth Healy


Blog writer

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Table of contents

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Delivering excellent customer service is the key to how your customers feel about you. That ever crucial human touch can be the make-or-break for customer loyalty and satisfaction, especially when handling customer complaints. That's why thinking about how to respond to customer complaints by email before you inevitably have to, sets you up for success.

Feedback is a great way for us to learn. Therefore, we should look at dealing with unhappy customers as an opportunity to understand your customer base better, hear directly from your target audience, and potentially convert this individual into a champion of your organization.

Whether you are in sales, marketing, design, customer support, or even the CEO or founder, there are countless potential touchpoints of interacting with customers. No matter the role, it's crucial that you have the skills and the confidence to deal with a dissatisfied customer when something goes wrong – you should always feel well equipped and in control when handling a customer complaint.

In this blog post, we'll break down the best practices and guidelines to follow when you have to respond to customer complaints by email and highlight why it's essential for your business to excel in dealing with unhappy customers. And if you want to save time, we'll teach you the fastest way to do just that with Flowrite:

Why you need to master handling customer complaints

Customer happiness is key to success for many reasons: good PR, word-of-mouth referrals, repeat purchase or use of services, the list goes on. Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell 4-6 people about their positive experience. The negative impacts of a dissatisfactory customer experience are felt on an even broader scale, with an unhappy customer telling 9-15 people about their experience.

We see much recognition of this in the public sphere when brands increasingly use social media as an open touchpoint for their customers. These companies use every piece of feedback, positive and negative, as an opportunity to showcase their customer relationship management in front of a wider audience and use this interaction to build their brand's reputation further.

By showcasing how much they care, how attentive they are, or how effective their solutions are, they send a powerful message that this brand cares about their customers' happiness. And who doesn't want that? Fantastic customer service is a proven competitive advantage, with writing thoughtful responses having many positive ripples effects. Here are a few to keep in mind.

Brand loyalty

It just makes financial sense - customer retention costs less than customer acquisition, so it should be an obvious objective to keep this existing base happy. Reducing your churn rate is always attractive. When a disgruntled client feels like they are being listened to, it can be the foundation for building a long-term relationship, even more, loyal than a satisfied customer.

Positive PR

What better way to build your company's reputation than via your existing consumer base? As mentioned, excellent customer support is one of the most critical elements of how a consumer relates to a brand as a whole and how they'll talk about it going forward. Depending on your organization, it's likely one of the most human touchpoints a person will have with your brand. You should lean into it.

Less stress

Feel at ease in your professional abilities. Your job is significantly easier when you are confident in receiving and replying to any dissatisfied email. Productivity levels are higher as you save valuable time not wondering and worrying about the right thing to say. Not to mention there is a lot less fear about whether the way you've written an email response will go viral - and not in a good way.

Customer satisfaction creates job satisfaction

It is truly satisfying to help somebody with a problem, so this should feel no less rewarding at work. Most products or services set out trying to solve a pain point, albeit with some bumps along the road. Helping towards this goal by comforting an unhappy customer can honestly give great job satisfaction.

How to handle customer complaints through email – the best practices

How you respond to customer complaints in writing, of course, depends on the type of unsatisfied customer email you face. Still, every response should follow this evergreen list of pointers. The goal behind knowing exactly how to respond to an unhappy customer email is to save you time. Managing customer complaints over email is laborious and time-consuming, so it would be super inefficient to try and figure out every reply individually. By showcasing best practices, we establish some ground rules that will help you navigate these responses.

Listen to the customer

This is our number one tip for a reason. Nothing escalates the situation with an unhappy customer more than if they feel like they haven't been heard.

"I have reviewed your delivery's two-week delay, and we are taking this matter seriously."

Finding a way to repeat the customer's complaint early on in your email response, just like in the above example, shows that you're hearing them from the outset.

Show empathy

There's a reason you're aware of the phrase "the customer is always right." Regardless of the cause or scope of their complaint, their feeling of dissatisfaction is authentic.

"I understand how frustrating this delay must be for you." 

Acknowledging their frustration goes a long way in making amends and resolving the issue, so try to meet the unhappy customer on this level early on your response.

Save time with clarity

Suppose a customer is really angry and not describing their complaint in enough detail. In that case, it can be tricky not to fall into the trap of handholding, but try not to do this. Politely get them to clarify what the issue is.

"Let me make sure I fully understand your issue. Can you please take a screenshot of the error message you're receiving and include it in an email reply?"

If you're not asking for what you need to solve their problem, you run the risk of annoying them further in the long run.

Accept responsibility

The customer felt disgruntled enough to get in touch, so make sure they know you can see where the brand let them down.

"I am so sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience with our services"

Be genuine and specific when apologizing for the negative experience. It's always a good idea to repeat the apology towards the closing of your email.

"I am so sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience with our services"

Stay positive

Don't let the negative vibes get you down! The good news goes a long way, so where it's possible to share some, make sure you put this front and center.

"Happy to share that we're another step closer to solving this for you - I've identified the main issue with your desktop. Can you help me further and share the serial number at the back of the monitor?"

Remember to double-check your sentence structure. Is the good news part in the first half before you ask for what you need? Even if all you can do is thank them for being in touch, but this first. It sets the tone, which helps a lot down the road.

Lean into your brand's voice

As we shared in our blog post on how to write a professional email, the tone is extremely important in email communications. It's even more critical when the person at the other end of the correspondence is already frustrated. You cannot steer the conversation as easily or get a feel for how they are feeling.

Depending on your brand, you may have some freedom to personalize the message. To hit the right tone with your customer complaint response, you can ask yourself the following questions.

  • Who is your customer base persona?
  • What kind of language do they use?
  • Are emojis in your brand's style guide?
  • Does your audience receive humor well?

Done well, your answer to the disappointed customer can lead to positive PR and increase customer loyalty. It can also make sometimes stressful customer support not-so-serious.

Ask if there is anything else

Although you've likely covered a variety of issues within your correspondence, always let the customer know that you're open to more feedback or helping them out with another question or problem.

"Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

Showing that you are open to more feedback and ready to help can emphasize that your intentions are genuine. This approach also means the ball is in their court to close off the conversation.

Remember the proper email etiquette

Don't forget to put everything you've learned about professional emails into practice when resolving a complaint. Think of all that you've already got under your belt in the wide world of professional communications. You know to consider language, greetings, tone, spelling, formality, sign-off, and so much more.

"Thank you for taking the time to email Corpod. Feedback from our customers is very important to us. My name is Jonathan, and I'll be helping you with your issue today."

You can even find a way to say no politely to an angry customer when needed, as long as you also follow the guidance in this post.

How to respond to customer complaints with Flowrite

Thoughtful responses to unhappy customer emails go the extra mile in modern-day business. By now, you've learned how to respond meaningfully to customer complaints – and why it's good for your business.

As a last tip, we want to show you how writing customer complaint responses with Flowrite can save your time. Just instruct it with a few bullets, choose a template to guide the AI, and witness the email or message write itself.

We hope that this blog offered you a great starting point in gaining the confidence you need to master every interaction with an angry or dissatisfied customer. How did you like it? Let us know by tweeting at us.

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