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How to Respond to a Customer Complaint in Writing

by Jill Leviticus

Keeping customers happy is critical to the success of any business. Prompt response to complaints can help you retain customers who are dissatisfied with the service they received from your company. A well-written response letter follows a basic format and is an important tool in your company's complaint resolution process.

Summarize the Situation

Begin the letter by thanking the customer for telling you about the problem. It’s important to start the letter on a positive note, since you know that the customer is already unhappy with your company. Mention that you value his business and strive to ensure that customers have a good experience with your company. Briefly summarize the complaint, including any dates, if applicable. Ask the customer to contact you if your summary doesn’t accurately describe his issue. Include any questions you might have about the customer’s experience.

Use Empathy

Let the customer know that you understand why he was upset or unhappy. If your company was wrong, apologize for the error or situation. Even if your company was right, it’s best not to antagonize the customer by blaming the situation on him. The Intuit website suggests that you tell the customer that you understand that you didn’t fulfill his expectations if you feel that the complaint was unwarranted. The point of this paragraph is to establish rapport with the client and make him feel that his opinion matters.

Offer a Solution

Let the customer know what you can do to resolve the situation. Explain in detail what you will do and when you will do it. In some cases, you might need additional information from him, such as documents or completed forms, before you can address the problem. Tell the customer exactly what information you need and when you need it. Avoid applying company policies too rigidly. You won’t be wrong if you refuse to fix an issue that occurred one day after a warranty expired, but you probably will lose a customer – and that customer will tell others of his experience with your company.

Conclude the Letter

Finish the letter with your contact information should the customer want to discuss the matter further. Provide multiple ways in which the customer can reach you, such as an email address and your direct telephone line. Avoid providing a general company telephone number or one that requires the customer to wade through numerous prompts just to leave a message. If you make it difficult for the customer to reach you, he might become frustrated and feel that you are not serious about resolving his problem. Thank the customer again for contacting you and ask him to let you know if he has any additional problems.

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