Customer Service / Customer Experience

How to respond to a customer complaint via email

Haley Osborne

Updated: Sep 05, 2023 · 5 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

customer service reply to complaint

Nobody wants to deal with negativity in the workplace. Unfortunately, dealing with negativity is part of the job for some people. When you’re a support agent or a salesperson, a major component of your work involves dealing with negative feedback.

If you’re managing your own online store and have to deal with client complaints via email, it can be challenging. After all, you’ve spent much time working toward making your clients’ lives better. Don’t let negativity ruin your productivity. Use the following tips to better handle customer complaints:

Get into the right state of mind

The first thing that'll help you handle a customer complaint sent via email is getting into the right mindset. You don’t want to approach your reply thinking that you’re at odds with a customer. It’s easy to get into that mindset if the customer is extremely rude or undermines your professionalism while complaining. Rise above the temptation.

If you feel as if you’re going to have a hostile exchange with the customer, take a break and try to imagine yourself in their shoes. This person may have been hoping to get your product delivered in time to give it as a present, but they got something else instead. Even if the situation you’re dealing with is less intense, it can be extremely frustrating for the customer to get bad service.

Remember, the goal of your response is to turn that angry and frustrated customer into a satisfied one.

Call them by name

Now that you’re ready to write an effective answer, start by referring to your customer by name. This will show them it’s not a robotic response and that you took time to write the reply yourself. It also sets a friendlier mood for the interaction.

You don’t need to spam their name in the email, though. Mention it at the start, and address the client by their name in the finishing paragraph. That will do the trick.

Show sympathy

While the most important thing in the complaint is its object, whatever your company failed to deliver, don’t forget about another element that's also very important—the client’s emotions.

They may deny it, but whatever made them write a complaint letter made them upset. They may be angry, sad, or furious about what happened. What you have to do is make sure you don’t just solve a problem but retain that client by sympathizing with them.

Tell them that you’re sorry about what they went through and that you understand how they're feeling at the moment. This will let them know you care and that you'll try to solve their problem.

You need to be sincere, or at the very least sound sincere. Writing something like "I sincerely apologize for what you must have been through” sounds less sincere than “Oh gosh, that must have been terrible."

Thank the client for reaching out

If a client is angry about the incident they’re complaining about, you may get their trust back with this simple tip from Jeff Richards, Head of Content at Essay Tigers: Thank them for informing you about the details of this incident. That will make them stop in their tracks because when you’re angry you expect an altercation, not a thank you letter.

After all, if they’re complaining about not finding something on the website or seeing a bug on it, you owe them. If it wasn’t for their complaint, you would have never found out about the issue and would have kept losing clients because of it.

Explain what you’re going to do

After reading your sincere apology, the client may feel better, but the problem they complained about remains. Hearing that you’ll take care of this problem may not be enough for them.

If you want a customer to be satisfied with your services, you need to tell them precisely what you’re going to do and when you're going to fix the problem. Seeing something concrete in the answer will reassure them that the problem will soon be addressed.

If the complaint they logged requires longer troubleshooting, it's wise to provide them updates on how the process is going. It’s always better to bring it up yourself than to wait until they complain another time.

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Offer a discount

Retaining customers and transforming one-off purchases into lifelong relationships is a must if you’re building a scalable business. American Express data shows that even one bad experience with a company may be enough to make a user switch brands. Since client acquisition is far more expensive than retention, you don’t want to lose a single client if possible.

Don’t let a customer lose trust in your company because of one unfortunate incident. Offer a discount or a gift for the next purchase, and the odds that this customer is going to stay with your brand become much better.

Sample customer complaint response

Taking all the tips mentioned above into consideration, here’s a sample email that you can use for your industry.

Hi Karen,

Thanks for reaching out to us to inform us about this incident! You must be feeling really overwhelmed right now and I understand that. I hope you accept my apology on behalf of the company.

I will immediately contact the logistics department to fix this problem as soon as possible. You will receive a heads-up as soon as the new product is sent to your address.

I hope this incident won’t kill your trust in our brand, Karen. As an apology, I offer a 30% discount on the next purchase you make at our online store.

Best regards,


Use this template and change the details to fit your industry and the situation your client is in. Don’t forget to be very specific about what you’re going to do to fix the problem.

After a reply like this one, a frustrated client may become a loyal one.

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