• 4-minute read
  • 26th August 2019

5 Tips for Writing a Response to a Letter of Complaint

Responding to a complaint is never easy. But you can’t ignore complaints. And you can’t tell the complainers to take a hike (at least not if you want your business to keep having customers). Instead, you need to put aside your personal feelings and respond in a helpful, professional tone.

But how do you write a good response to a letter of complaint? Let’s find out.

1. Know Your Policies and Procedures

If you’re responding on behalf of your employer, check their official policies regarding complaints. And if your company doesn’t have a standard procedure for handling complaints, you may want to look at setting one!

Simply following the rulebook may not be enough to satisfy a disgruntled customer, though. And in cases like these, you should also check whether you’re allowed to bend the rules to resolve a problem.

For instance, imagine your employer has a 30-day returns policy. If someone then contacts you after 31 days with a good excuse for missing the 30-day deadline, such as being stuck in hospital, following the rules blindly will leave them disappointed. And they might not come back. Or they might tell their friends and family about their bad experience.

Or, even worse, leave a bad review online...
Or, even worse, leave a bad review online…

If you accept the return, on the other hand, the customer will be more likely to come back. And it might even generate some positive word of mouth (the most important form of marketing). Overall, then, knowing the rules is important. But bending them can be crucial, too!

2. Start with Something Positive

Minimally, you should begin any response to a letter of complaint by thanking the customer. If nothing else, this means you start on a positive note, acknowledging the time and effort they’ve spent to get in touch.

Remember, too: As inconvenient as a complaint might be, by bringing a problem to your attention, the customer has done you a favour. Your responsibility is to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

3. Be Sympathetic

The most important thing when responding to a letter of complaint is striking a sympathetic tone. After all, if someone isn’t happy with something, they want to be understood. They want to know that someone else cares. And if you’re responding to a complaint, it’s your job to care.

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We’ve already mentioned thanking the customer for getting in touch. But you need to maintain this tone throughout your response. To do this:

  • Acknowledge the specific problem highlighted in the complaint.
  • If they make several points, respond to each one in turn.
  • Apologise sincerely for any mistakes you or your organisation has made.
  • Explain what you have done (or will do) to address the problem.
  • Offer compensation (if applicable).
  • Set out any precautions you will take to prevent similar problems arising.

This might not always be easy, of course! Sometimes a letter of complaint will be aggressive or difficult to follow. But you still need to take a calm, systematic approach to composing your response.

4. Keep It Simple

As a rule, a good response to a complaint will keep things as simple as possible, avoiding technical jargon and legalese at all times. And if you do use technical terminology, make sure to explain it clearly.

This is vital, as the customer could feel they’ve been fobbed off if they don’t understand something, even if you’ve responded in detail!

It is also good to offer a consistent point of contact for any ongoing correspondence following a complaint. This can help build trust, as the customer will know who to contact if they have a question.

5. Take the Complaint Seriously

Finally, it might be tempting to write a jokey response to a letter of complaint to lighten the tone. But the customer will want to know you’re taking their problem seriously, so jokes can backfire badly.

Likewise, make sure to have your response proofread. This will ensure your message is easy to read and error free, showing the customer you take their problem seriously enough to put time and thought into your reply.

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