Customer Complaint Management Tips

Proactive customers are the backbone of any successful business, and their feedback, even if negative, is valuable information for you. You can’t afford to be turned down by a customer, so this lesson is all about strategies for managing customer complaints. You’ll learn why customer complaints are right for your business and how to handle upset customers. As a result, you won’t lose a single customer case, and you’ll close every ticket as solved with a smile on your face.
Author image

Weronika Masternak

19 min read

It’s going to be a bit controversial what I’m about to say, but a customer complaint is an opportunity for you and your business. Yes, you read that right. So, let me take it further. If you successfully resolve a customer complaint, it can make the customer have a more optimistic view of your company. I know it still makes everyone stressed, but you’re here, and you’re going to learn how to handle customer complaints like a pro.

What is a customer complaint?

Simply put, customer complaints are often a sign that there’s a disconnect between customer expectations and what you deliver. For example, you can face customer complaints when your product or service description is misleading, sloppy, or simply incorrect. In addition, a customer complaint can arise when the experience of your app, website, or brick-and-mortar stores sets your customers up for failure. Even a problem that happens outside your direct control, such as third-party delivery issues or supply chain disruptions, can result in a customer complaint. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reported that dissatisfied customers typically tell between nine and 15 other people about their bad experiences. Imagine how risky it gets when some tell 20 or more people about it. Customer complaints can take many forms, such as an email, an online review, a phone call, a social media post, or an in-person meeting.

In this lesson, I’ll focus on email complaints. There’s a fear among customer service professionals that every email they send could be a big deal and land on social media or straight on a supervisor’s desk. I’ll show you how to craft a response to a customer complaint that will do its job even if it’s posted publicly.

How to deal with customer complaints

Since complaint handling is a key part of your customer service strategy, here’s a complaint management workflow you can implement in your business. Become efficient and be prepared for any difficult situation when a complex customer claim hits your inbox.

Customer complaint management flow.

1. Identify the customer type

First, when a complaint drops into your inbox, try to identify the type of customer you are dealing with. On your customer support journey, you can encounter customers such as:

A customer who’s very open about their disappointment

They’ll let you know how upset they are and will use words that will clearly emphasize their mood. Don’t mirror their confrontational behavior. Respond politely and calmly so as not to escalate an already tense situation.

A customer you know well who contacts you repeatedly

I know how frustrating it can be when a customer comes back to you with new complaints, and you still feel like you’re not giving your best. Be patient and treat each new message as an opportunity to become an even better professional or entrepreneur. Keep in the back of your mind that you’re working on your customer’s satisfaction, and don’t give up.

A customer who pays you a lot and expects extra support for it

If your customer service policy involves exceptional service to well-paying customers, you can consider creating a VIP customer support flow with an appropriate SLA or even a dedicated agent.

A customer who isn’t proactive

They don’t have time to send you a complaint message, but they will leave you and stop supporting your company as soon as something goes wrong. Of course, they’ll never let you know that there was an issue. You need to reach out to them personally and get customer feedback to figure out what you didn’t cover.

2. Acknowledge the customer’s frustration

Try to understand the customer’s frustration. Make the connection and be understanding by saying: “This shouldn’t be happening. I’ll look into it.” Don’t convince the customer that they’re wrong because that gets you nowhere. Instead, listen carefully and find the right solution after you face the complaint.

Dig deeper into the customer complaint. Ask them the right question to get to the root of the issue, such as:

  • Could you provide an example of …?
  • What do you mean by saying that …?
  • Did you try it when …?
  • Could you elaborate more on …?
  • Could you expand on that point further …?

Then, make sure you have all the information you need to proceed. Talk to your teammates about the issue, and brainstorm. Maybe you already have scenarios prepared related to an angry customer, policy disputes, or other discount requests. These will make your workflow run smoothly. So, make initial assumptions and continue the process of resolving the customer complaint.

If you feel that you're not the right person to handle a customer complaint, in HelpDesk, you can easily assign the ticket to your teammate, who can take over the case. Sign up for a 14-day free trial of HelpDesk and enjoy the best collaboration features.

3. Thank the customer for their feedback

In the previous lesson, I considered the topic of customer feedback. If you’ve had a chance to read the lesson, you already know how important it is from a business perspective. Customers have no obligation to tell you things that bother them or make them feel uncomfortable. What’s more, every message from a customer requires effort on their part. That’s why it’s a good idea to thank your customers for contacting you and point out something that can be improved or enhanced in the overall brand experience.

4. Outline your recovery plan

A proper response to a customer complaint includes an element of explanation as to what you plan to do next. Use available resources and clearly articulate your recovery plan to resolve the challenging situation. Be sure to write down the findings from this customer case so that your teammates can quickly pitch in and use the knowledge you’ve gathered in case of further issues. For example, you can store customer case data and use your CRM system, task management system, or private notes in the HelpDesk.

5. Suggest redeeming actions

Since you know the customer case inside out and have your recovery plan outlined, the next step is to offer clarification and the right solution. When providing information, try not to sound defensive or careless. Instead, show respect and be calm in the face of the customer’s negative claims. Look at the whole situation objectively. I know that customers aren’t always right, but antagonizing them is never a wise move.

Be careful about over-apologizing. The customer knows you made a mistake, and you acknowledge it. You don’t have to beat yourself up and oversell your apologies. So, avoid phrases like “I’m so sorry for disappointing you so much. There’s no doubt about it,” or “Please accept my sincerest apologies. I know I caused this problem.” Change your tone to sound professional and instead choose “I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I’m on my way to solving it,” or “You’re right. Right now, I’m taking responsibility for that and working on the solution.” Show that you’re actively trying to fix the problem instead of just apologizing.

If your customer support plan states it, you can offer a discount, coupon, or another benefit to satisfy the customer. So, not only are you taking their complaint seriously, but you’re also rewarding their efforts. Plus, customers can spread a positive word about you and your support, but if you leave them hanging, they can hurt your brand. And no, you don’t want that kind of skirmish with your customer.

6. Make sure the customer is satisfied

Make sure your customers are satisfied with the results of your support. You can ask them if there’s anything else you could do for them or if they have any additional questions. Never end a conversation if you’re unsure of a positive outcome to support action. Also, be approachable and show them the quickest way to contact you if they have further requests. Introduce LiveChat, ChatBot, or a custom HelpDesk-powered contact form to your site so that your customers can contact you quickly.

Connect all communication channels with HelpDesk. Let every message from your customer turn into a fully manageable ticket. Sign up for a 14-day trial and find out how HelpDesk can make your customer service top-notch.

Let the customer know that you’re available whenever they need you. I know that’s a significant promise, but after all, if you want to provide the best customer service, you’re going to have to walk on eggshells, especially when dealing with complex customer issues.

Introducing live chat on the website as one way to be accessible to the customer.

Sign up for our mailing list

Get a Business Email Writing Guide now and helpful customer service tips every two weeks.

Email responses to customer complaints

When handling customer complaints, you need to identify the cause of the complaint, find a proven solution, and send it back to the customer. Now, it’s time to discuss how to respond to customer complaints by showing some real-life and well-thought-out examples.

I created the following email templates based on our HelpDesk’s experience with customers and difficult situations. As a result, you can implement them quickly, and when a situation becomes challenging, save your time and avoid stress.

When customers complain about the overall experience

First things first. The templates I prepared are for specific customer situations. Still, before you get to them, you need to have a master and generic customer service email that you can use immediately when a customer writes to you. Every minute counts, remember?

Customers expect an immediate response to support tickets. Even a short and friendly note stating that the message was received and help is on the way can do the trick here. Unfortunately, most companies fail in this regard. So, the first message sent to the customer can be an automated email response, preferably using an automated workflow to avoid manual work.

Hello [NAME],

Thank you for reaching out. We received your message, and someone from our team will take a closer look at your request and come back to you within 48 hours. 

If you have general questions about our offerings, check out our knowledge base for guidance and answers to frequently asked questions. 

Have a great day,
[SIGNATURE]
Copy to clipboard Copied!
Hello [NAME],

Thank you for contacting [BRAND'S NAME]!

This message is just a confirmation that we've received your request and will respond to you within 48 hours. 

For your reference, we've registered your message with the following details:

Ticket ID: [TICKET ID OR NUMBER]
Topic: [MESSAGE SUBJECT]

In the meantime, feel free to check out our knowledge base for guidance and answers to the FAQ.  

Cheers,
[SIGNATURE]
Copy to clipboard Copied!

When customers complain about a product

I know many people for whom going to the shopping center isn’t their first pick, and they prefer to stay at home, enjoying the wide range of ecommerce stores. So, let it be official that the era of online shopping has dawned. The following email response example refers to a situation where something has gone wrong with a purchase. For example, the product bought by our customer is defective, broken, or doesn’t meet their expectations in other aspects. Use the email template below to identify customer needs and respond to customer complaints about your product.

Hello [NAME],

Thank you for contacting us. I've read your request carefully. I'd like you to know that it's always most important that our products are useful and meet your requirements. For this reason, I'm sorry to hear that there was trouble with the [PRODUCT'S NAME].

Please, fill out this form to return the [PRODUCT'S NAME] for free.

I'd like to let you know that I've sent your submission to the quality department. My teammates there will ensure that a situation like this won't happen again.

Since we're fully aware of the problem with [PRODUCT'S NAME], we want to make it up to you. So, I've created an exclusive code just for you to get a $15 discount on your next purchase: [CODE].

I hope you'll enjoy your next shopping experience with us. 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Have a great day,
[SIGNATURE]
Copy to clipboard Copied!

When customers complain about services

When customers go to your website, access your app, or visit you directly at your office, they expect specific results from your service. They have their own ideas in their heads, which you have to fulfill. Unfortunately, it happens that the service doesn’t go as expected. Your service lacks certain features, and this is an apparent reason to complain. Take a look at the email template below to respond politely and firmly to customer complaints about your service.

Hello [NAME],

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. Your needs always come first, so I deeply regret that you experienced [LIST THE PROBLEM THE CUSTOMER MENTIONED]. We are always open to improving our services and providing you with the best possible service, so thank you for bringing this up.

According to my initial understanding, the situation was probably caused by [A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE INCIDENT]. But, regardless, this shouldn't have happened, and we could have handled it better. For now, I can suggest you [MENTION A SOLUTION]. I checked it out myself, and it seems to work as expected. Please let me know if you have found this helpful. 

Your feedback is crucial for us to learn and grow as a company. That's why I've passed this information to [NAME OF RESPONSIBLE DEPARTMENT] so that we can investigate further. After researching the issue, I'll contact you with our findings and planned improvements. 

Thank you for your patience. If you need further assistance, please let me know if I can help. 

Best regards,
[SIGNATURE]
Copy to clipboard Copied!

When customers complain about delayed delivery

When you include a delivery date with an order, remember that this is a promise you’re making. Your customers will check on the status of their order and put their hope in the date displayed. They believe you’re such a seasoned businessman that you can accurately schedule delivery times, track shipments between warehouses, and anticipate any slip-ups. So you can imagine how disappointing it is for customers when their awaited package is late.

Sometimes a package is left at another location or marked as delivered even though it’s still on the delivery truck. Your customer doesn’t care. So, if you receive a complaint about delayed delivery, you know what to do. Just use our email template for that occasion.

Hello [NAME],

Thank you for your message. I'm very sorry that your order didn't arrive on time and I know how frustrating this must be for you. 

From my initial research, it appears that this situation was caused by [A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE INCIDENT]. I regret that I didn't communicate clearly on this topic and let you down. 

Fortunately, I've managed to contact the carrier. We found your package in the system, and it's currently listed as [package status]. You can also follow this link to see the progress of your delivery: [LINK].

Please contact me directly if your order hasn't arrived within [WRITE THE TIME FRAME]. I'll do everything in my power to make sure your shipment reaches you successfully. Also, as an additional way to apologize, please accept this discount code for 10% off your next purchase: [CODE].

Thank you for your patience. Let me know if you have any other questions. I'll be happy to answer them all.

Have a great day,
[SIGNATURE]
Copy to clipboard Copied!

When customers complain about a support agent

If your customer support team is keeping a customer on hold for a long time or one of your teammates is behaving less professionally than usual, you can face trouble. Your front-line support agents who deal directly with customers can have a bad day and clearly show it. Been there, done that, but it’s so human. The best strategy is to be humble and understanding of your teammates. Also, you need to be prepared to respond to a customer complaint about a support agent.

Hello [NAME],

Thank you for reaching out. I'm sorry that you faced such an unpleasant situation and had to go through this. Making you [A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF THE INCIDENT] is unacceptable and shouldn't happen. We take our professionalism and customer-focused approach very seriously, so thank you for speaking up.

I want to make it clear that we strive to make your experience easy and enjoyable, which is why I shared your feedback with my team. Because we have your best interests at heart, we will use the opinion to improve our customer service workflow.

Thank you for your understanding, and I hope this inconvenience doesn't affect our relationship in any way. 

Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. 

Always happy to hear from you,
[SIGNATURE]
Copy to clipboard Copied!

Every customer case is different. In HelpDesk, you can categorize customer messages, add descriptive tags, and create quick-access views with a set of tickets. Plus, you can save your complaint emails as canned responses and always have them on hand. Sign up for a 14-day trial and try HelpDesk in your customer service.

Logging the customer complaint

Remember to respond in real time and send a well-structured email message the moment you get a customer claim. Also, document your progress as you resolve the customer complaint because this can be a tremendous help to your teammates or other support agents.

You can apply a complaint management workflow and integrate HelpDesk with Jira. Track your customer complaints and create tasks from them to improve the quality of your support. Monitor how often you hear recurring issues, track trends, and send a follow-up message directly to every customer when the issue is resolved.

Let's build a customer service information hub together. Integrate your HelpDesk account with many of the tools you use every day, like Shopify, Zapier, or HubSpot. One click, and you have all your tickets from multiple communication channels at your fingertips. Interested? Sign up for a free 14-day trial of HelpDesk.

Summary

Every customer service department faces different types of complaints, and email templates are only a halfway solution. The main idea of solving problems by email is to put in a lot of empathy, share information, and promise a solution. You need to be a reasonable observer and see what problems customers come to you with. This is the only way to figure out the right complaint management strategy. At the very end, let’s conclude this lesson on how to deal with upset customers.

  • Dive deep to understand and appreciate how the customer feels. Weave your personal touch into every message and try to be empathetic.
  • Prepare a well-thought-out and professional email to the customer. Avoid misspellings and other email mistakes that can negatively affect the customer’s perception of your message.
  • Make it easy for customers to find a channel to give you feedback or complaints. Place email addresses, phone numbers, contact forms, or social media profiles at every touchpoint with your brand.
  • Start building your customer feedback strategy and collect all the positive and negative opinions. You can grow faster when you know what you’re good at and what you’re bad at.
  • Send post-support emails with a survey about the quality of support. In HelpDesk, you can send these emails automatically after every conversation. This way, you can discover areas that need your attention.

In the next lesson

How To Track and Reward an Agent's Performance

Join our next lesson in which you'll learn how to track and reward your agent's performance. Learn about seasonal reviews, individual goals, reward policies, and other indicators of customer service conditions. Finally, I'll give you some proven ways to keep your support team happy and motivated.

Go to lesson 8

Subscription with a gift!

Join the mailing list to get a special ebook on email communication.

  • Share icon

    Copied!

  • Share icon
  • Share icon
  • Share icon
  • Share icon

Try HelpDesk for free

For quick and intuitive tickets management

14 days free trial No credit card required

Discover our other products