How to Respond to E-Mail Complaints Effectively

May 23, 2014 | 1 comment

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As a commercial business providing any kind of service or product to the general public, you are likely to find that you occasionally get feedback that is less than positive. You might provide fantastic value all-in-all but even the very best business will occasionally get it wrong, or will occasionally come across a customer or client who just doesn’t appreciate their efforts.

Sometimes this will result in a complaint via e-mail, which is a specific type of feedback requiring a specific type of response. Read on and we’ll look at how to go about responding to e-mail complaints and how to write an effective response.

Assess the E-Mail

The first thing to do when you receive a complaint via e-mail is to assess it for its value and merit. While no-one likes receiving criticisms, they can actually be highly valuable as feedback. If one person has been so moved as to draft an angry e-mail, then this suggests that the problem may be affecting others too. If this is reasonable, actionable criticism that can be used as feedback and that can inform future decisions for your business, then it’s worth making a note of the complaint and looking at implementing relevant changes in future. It may be that the problem wasn’t your fault and was instead an issue with the carrier – do you need to change the partners you’re working with?

Likewise you should assess the merit of the e-mail. Is their complaint valid? Did they have reasonable expectations? Are they deserving of some kind of compensation?

Respond Promptly and Professionally

Regardless of the answers to these questions, it’s critical that you respond to the complaint promptly, politely and professionally. It may be that someone has written you a rude and unfair message in haste, but that doesn’t mean you should respond in kind as this can only lead to damage to your reputation and the loss of at least one, if not several, customers. Respond quickly and politely and you’ll demonstrate that your business is fair and reliable under even difficult circumstances. A great way to manage all your email and assure you never miss a request or complaint is to implement a ticket system. A ticket system can help you keep a clean inbox and up to date with all your customer interactions.

And even if the person in question doesn’t have a valid complaint, it’s worth providing a refund or compensation as long as your company won’t lose too much money over it. If you can’t afford to offer a full refund, then at least offer a discount off of their next purchase. This way they will feel like they’ve been heard and like they’ve been victorious. A point to consider though is that if some customers or clients are consistently causing you problems, it can be worth altering your business model to attract a different calibre of customer.

Wording

Wording your response correctly is important. The aim is to be apologetic without necessarily accepting blame. For instance you can use the phrase ‘we are sorry to hear you were not satisfied with your purchase’. This way you don’t admit fault or cement the idea that your product is sub-par, but you still offer condolence and hopefully appease the complaint somewhat.

Try to keep your messages brief and to the point with a friendly but direct manner. Thank them for taking the time to respond and outline how they might go about receiving the compensation they offer.

Always take the higher ground and keep your eye on the bigger picture.

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About the author

Greg Fisher

Greg Fisher, founder of Berkeley Sourcing Group, has a strong manufacturing and engineering background, and is proficient in Mandarin. After graduating from UC Berkeley with an engineering degree, Mr. Fisher worked in the medical device, hard drive storage, ice cream, and professional tools industries in various management, manufacturing, and quality control capacities.

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