Responding to customer complaint emails is part and parcel of running a company. The unfortunate fact is that no matter how awesome your products or services are, someone is always going to have a negative opinion or experience. That’s why it’s important for customer service folks to know how to write an appropriate email response to customer complaints.

Maybe one of your customers is just having a bad day and doesn’t like the fact that your product doesn’t do what they think it should do. Or maybe the software you sold them is undergoing an outage that is slowing down their own business.

Regardless of what the problem is, to avoid losing customers, you must reply quickly to complaints with effective customer support emails.

Important aspects of how to write email to customer

As a business owner or customer service manager, it will fall to you to make sure you have a system in place for customer complaint response. You must become familiar with the types of complaints your customers might have, as well as learn how to write email to customer that addresses their problem to the best of your ability.

Types Of Customer Complaints

Anyone can complain about anything, even if there appears to be nothing at face value that is worth complaining about. But in many cases, customers have legitimate complaints about the product or service they’ve purchased.

Below are four common types of customer complaints that you are likely to encounter, no matter what business you’re running.

Missing Delivery

Missing deliveries are common, especially around the holiday season. The United States Postal Service gets backed up with packages, which causes delays (sometimes long ones). Packages can also get lost, delivered to the wrong home, or even stolen off the recipient’s porch before they ever knew it was there.

There is nothing more frustrating than ordering a product and either a) not receiving it on time, or b) not receiving it at all. This is especially true around the holidays when everyone is rushing to buy gifts for their friends and loved ones.

If you guaranteed delivery during a certain timeframe and the customer received it much later, or the customer claims they never received their order period, you may find an angry complaint from the customer in your email inbox.

Software Outage

If you’ve ever experienced a software outage, then you know how frustrating they are. So many companies, entrepreneurs, and individuals rely on software to do their jobs or simply go about their daily lives.

Outages for apps and other types of software are almost inevitable, but if they are recurring or happen to occur during a moment that your customers need it most, you should anticipate email complaints. You will certainly hear about it if the software you sell goes down in the middle of an important call or sale on your customer’s end.

Flawed Product

A flawed product is not necessarily the fault of the company that produced it. The factory they used may have flubbed that particular item, or the delivery service may have been rough with the package causing the contents to break.

However, mistakes do happen. It is also possible for a product to not undergo proper or thorough testing before you turn it over to mass production. This is why companies are forced to recall items from time to time.

When a customer sends you an email complaining about a flawed product, your first priority is to make sure their issue gets resolved. Whether you refund the purchase or send them a new product, you must leave them feeling that you hear and are addressing their concerns. After that, you and your team can work to ensure the customer doesn’t experience the same issue again.

Refund Request

A customer may request a refund for several different reasons. Maybe the product wasn’t what they expected, and they want to send it back. Maybe it was flawed, so they can’t use it for its intended purpose.

To maintain trust between your company and the customer, it’s wise to provide them with a refund upon their request, providing they meet the necessary requirements. Remember that there will always be situations where a refund is justified. To not provide one will ensure the loss of that customer, and many more when they leave you a negative review.

How To Write The Appropriate Response Email To An Upset Customer

So now you are probably wondering, how do I write an effective response email to customer complaints? There is an art to responding to customer complaints. Not every customer is always right, but you must still maintain a level of professionalism. You must make the customer feel heard and, hopefully, that you can resolve their problem.

Whenever you receive a customer complaint email, craft a response using the following four steps.

Acknowledge Their Issue

Start your customer complaint email response by acknowledging their issue. This action shows them that you sympathize or empathize with their complaint. It also shows them that they are interacting with a human being, rather than an automatically generated response.

Acknowledging their issue also provides an opportunity for you to gain clarification. By summing up the problem, you give the customer a chance to either agree with you or correct your statement. You will be able to get to the heart of the problem faster rather than asking a lot of questions and forcing the customer to repeat themselves over and over.

Thank Them As A Customer

It’s always good practice to follow up acknowledging the customer’s issue by thanking them for being a customer of your company. You’d be surprised how far a simple expression of gratitude can go to help customers feel appreciated and valued.

You can take it a step further by thanking them for bringing up the issue at hand. In a way, customer complaints are both learning and growing opportunities for your company. They are doing you a favor by pointing out the flaws and gaps in your products and services.

Even if their complaint is not justified (in the company’s view), expressing gratitude is a quick and effortless way to diffuse the situation and take the edge off the customer’s anger.

Lay Out A Plan Of Action

The main thing a customer wants to know when they email a complaint is how you’re going to resolve their issue. Are you going to send them another product? Are you going to troubleshoot the software to figure out why it keeps going down? What solutions are you able to provide?

This part of responding to a customer complaint is laying out a plan of action. It tells the customer how you are going to address their issue and how long it’s going to take.

If a customer presents you with a complaint, most of the time they want you to do something about it. If an answer to their complaint is not immediately available or actionable, tell them that you and your team will investigate it, or that you’ll do your best to make sure nothing like this issue ever happens again.

You can also tell them there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes it’s better to be honest than create an expectation that you can solve their problem. Regardless, you must provide a plan of action, even if the only action possible is doing nothing.

Have a Money Back/Refund Policy In Place

It is vital that you establish a money back/refund policy for your company. Your customer service representatives need this information so they can write appropriate and effective emails replying to refund requests. They must know when and where refunds are applicable so they can offer it as needed.

This policy will likely become your most oft-used reply to customer complaints. Have it at the ready so there is no confusion among your reps.

Pro tip: be generous with your refunds. At the end of the day, returns can cost your company as little as 2% of your profits. The tradeoff is retaining and gaining more customers.

Example Of An Appropriate Response

When we put all the above four steps together, your customer complaint response should look something like this:

“Hello, Denise,

We understand how frustrating an experience this is and want to reassure you that this is not up to our quality of standards [acknowledge the issue]. Thank you for being a loyal customer and bringing this issue to our attention [thank them as a customer].

Here’s what I can do to help replace your flawed product [lay out a plan of action]: we can ship a new product to you immediately, free of charge, or if you would like I can offer you a full refund [have a money back/refund policy in place].

Please let us know which solution you would prefer. We appreciate your business!


The Company Team”

As you can see, we implemented all four steps of the response plan we laid out in the previous section. The result is a simple, yet effective customer complaint reply. You can replicate this example with any number of variations depending on the situation.

Respond To Customer Complaint Emails Faster And Easier With Sapling

Effectiveness is important when it comes to knowing how to write an email response to customer complaints.. But speed and efficiency are also crucial. You will only increase the ire of a customer if you take days or weeks to reply to their issue, much less to resolve it.

Sapling offers AI messaging assistant tools to increase customer-facing teams’ email response rates by two times. Our Grammar Check, Autocomplete, and Snippets features allow you and your reps to quickly respond to customer complaints with just a couple of clicks and keystrokes.

To see how your speed and efficiency in writing customer service email improves with Sapling, try it for free today!


Elaine is a seasoned freelance blog writer that has a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. So she’s got a few writing tips and tricks up her sleeve.

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