How to Reply to a Complaint Letter

by Lisa McQuerrey; Updated September 26, 2017

Every business receives complaint letters from time to time. Responding to them promptly and professionally can help you retain good relationships with your customers.

The Right Department

Send your letter from the appropriate department, to ensure your customer knows that the right people know about the problem and are addressing the situation. Format the letter on company letterhead and follow traditional business letter formatting guidelines.

Tips

  • Reference the complaint number, store or order number or the customer account in the letter to ensure appropriate tracking.

Acknowledge and Empathize

Acknowledge the customer’s frustration, and if you’re in the wrong, apologize. Emphasize your company's commitment to resolving issues and keeping customers happy. For example, “I was sorry to hear you received the wrong order. At ABC company, we have a commitment to providing top quality service and correcting mistakes.”

Fix It

Describe what you’re doing to address the complaint and rectify the problem. For example, “I have instructed our shipping department to overnight a replacement to you,” or, “The employee who was rude to you in our showroom has been reprimanded accordingly.”

Say Thanks

Thank the customer for bringing the problem area to your attention and note your appreciation for the customer’s patronage. For example, “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We appreciate your business and hope this incident will not impact your faith in our company in the future.”

Go the Extra Mile

Sweeten your response by giving the customer something extra. For example, a gift card, a free pass or something else that demonstrates you are not only sorry for the situation, but are committed to keeping the person as a customer. For example, “I’m sorry your movie was cut short due to technical difficulties. Enclosed, please find four complementary movie passes and a voucher for free popcorn and soft drinks.”

When the Complaint is Frivolous

If a customer is launching a frivolous complaint, acknowledge their frustration but explain why you won't be taking action. For example, if a customer complains an item they wanted is out of stock, cite limited production or heavy demand. If the complaint is about an employee who was following company guidelines in dealing with the customer, explain company policy. For example, “While I understand you were disappointed we were out of A-14 windshield wipers, the items were on clearance and have been discontinued. That’s why our associate said he couldn’t order any additional wipers for you.”

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.