5 Email Templates to Respond to Customer Complaints

In our last post, we offered up 10 tips for handling angry customer calls this holiday season. Hard as it may be to calm and satisfy an angry customer over the phone, it’s much harder to do so by email.

Without the benefit of real-time give and take, agents who respond to angry emails are at a disadvantage. They can’t get a feel for the customer, use tone of voice to bring the temperature down, or steer the conversation.

If an email isn’t worded quite right, it can easily be misconstrued as cold, indifferent, or rude—and deal a fatal blow to the customer relationship.

When responding to angry emails, your agents will need to walk a very fine line.

  • They’ll need to respond quickly, but in a way that projects warmth, concern, and a take-charge attitude.
  • They’ll need to be succinct, while conveying their commitment to righting the wrong and explaining how the problem will be solved.

Here are five of the most common customer complaints your agents will receive during the holiday season, along with some sample email responses that reflect the best practices of leading brands.

1. The Order Didn’t Arrive on Time

Customers who put their faith in promised delivery dates assume brands are prepared for the holiday rush. If an order isn’t fulfilled in a timely way, it can spark a very angry response.

The agent’s first order of business: track the customer’s package. If it’s marked as delivered, ask the customer to confirm the address. If the package is still in transit, try something like this.

“Dear [First name],

I’m so sorry your order hasn’t arrived. I know how frustrating this must be. We certainly didn’t intend to add to your holiday stress.

I’ve tracked the package via [carrier], and it’s currently listed as “[status].” If you’d like to check on its progress, here’s the link you can use: [link]

Please contact me directly if your order hasn’t arrived within [time frame]. In the meantime, I will do everything I can to locate your package.

Once again, [First name], I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

Sincerely,

[Agent first name]

[Email/direct phone]

2. The Customer Received the Wrong Item(s)

Opening an eagerly awaited package and finding the wrong item inside is irritating, to say the least. It also creates more work for the customer. A great email response addresses both pain points.

“Dear [First name],

I’m so sorry we mixed up your order. I know a mistake like this can be very upsetting, especially at this time of year.

I’ve double checked your original order, and the correct items should arrive tomorrow via [carrier] (tracking number [#]). If you’d like to track the package, here’s the link you can use: [link].

I’ll follow up with you tomorrow to make sure you received the correct items. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to contact me directly.

We do have one small favor to ask. Could you please return the unwanted items within the next [#] days? There should be an adhesive prepaid return label inside the box. If not, just click this link, print the form, and attach it to the box. You can drop the box off at any [carrier] location (click here to find the one nearest you).

Once again, [First name], I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

Sincerely,

[Agent first name]

[Email/direct phone]

3. The Customer Had a Bad Experience in Store

A rude or unhelpful associate, merchandise in complete disarray, endless checkout lines—a lot can go wrong in store at this time of year. If a customer emails a complaint, the agent’s response should include specific remedies, both at a high level and for the aggrieved customer.

“Dear [First name],

I’m sorry you had such an unpleasant encounter with one of our associates earlier today. We try to make our customers’ shopping experience easy and enjoyable, and we hold our stores to a very high standard. In this case, we clearly fell short.

I’ve forwarded your complaint to the [location] store management team as well as our corporate customer experience team. We will do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

We’d also like to make it up to you by offering a [#]% discount on your next purchase in store or online. Here’s a link to the coupon code, which you can print for in-store use: [link].

Once again, [First name], I apologize for our failure to serve you well. Thanks so much for letting us know. Your feedback is valuable to us.

Sincerely,

[Agent first name]

[Email/direct phone]

4. The Customer Is Getting Conflicting Answers

The website, store staff, and/or support reps aren’t on the same page, so the customer feels confused, frustrated—even misled. The agent’s job is to provide concrete information about policies, pricing, and/or product availability straight from the source and make clear the issue is being taken seriously.

“Dear [First name],

I’m so sorry for the confusion and frustration this has caused. As much as we rely on technology and training to provide customers with consistent, up-to-date information, we deeply regret when breakdowns like this occur.

Here is the section of our return policy that addresses your original question about electronic product returns.

[Screen capture]

You can find our complete return policy here: [link]. Please feel free to reply to this email or call my direct line with any additional questions you might have.

Also, I’ve made our corporate customer experience team aware of this issue so they can address any underlying problems and ensure our customers always have the right information.

Once again, [First name], I apologize for our failure to serve you well. Thanks so much for letting us know. Your feedback is valuable to us.

Sincerely,

[Agent first name]

[Email/direct phone]

5. There Was No Response to the Customer’s Previous Email

Heavy email volumes can wreak havoc on response times. But that doesn’t mean much to customers who need help or answers fast. What would have been a fairly simple resolution is now a customer service failure. Empathy is so important here, as is a shared sense of urgency.

“Dear [First name],

I’m so sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I understand your frustration. Your email needed and deserved a timely response.

As you requested, I’ve updated your payment settings and alerted our website team to the problem you’re having with your account management page. Please contact me directly if you experience any further problems on the site.

For inconveniencing you not once, but twice, we’d like to offer you a [#]% discount on your next purchase in store or online. Here’s a link to the coupon code, which you can print for in-store use: [link].

Once again, [First name], I apologize for the inconvenience. We will continue to do everything we can to speed up and improve our customer service delivery.

Sincerely,

[Agent first name]

[Email/direct phone]

Key to a Well-Received Email Response: Make It All About the Customer

No matter what your customers are angry about, your agents can bring positive closure if they observe some basic rules in their email responses.

  • Take responsibility – Make sure the customer knows you understand the issue and where the brand failed.
  • Acknowledge the customer’s feelings – Showing empathy helps to establish a connection and humanize the brand.
  • Be the brand hero – Tell the customer in positive, specific terms what you’ve already done or what you intend to do. Answer questions directly and include helpful resources. Let the customer know you’re there for them if needed. When appropriate, offer the customer something of value.
  • Close thoughtfully – Remind customers they are valued by the brand.

How formal or informal should your email responses be? That depends on your brand’s personality and customer base as well as the nature and tone of the complaint. Just keep in mind that attempts to be clever could seem flippant to an angry customer. In most cases, you’ll want to play it straight.

Truly great customer service transcends any one channel. It’s an organizational mindset that guides every employee from the C-suite executive to the contact center agent. In our next post, we’ll share some inspiring examples of companies going above and beyond to delight their dissatisfied customers.