Response to / Rejection of Complaint


Providing good responses to customer complaint letters is an effective way to solve poor quality products or poor customer service issues. The right response has the power to quell anger, win customer loyalty back, and lead to effective results within a limited time frame. Those who took the time to respond to a complaint letter showed that they were serious about solving the problem with the customer, not just sending back a standard response. It gives the company a chance to correct this situation and may actually resolve any bad feelings from unhappy customers.

Complaint letters should be properly responded to avoid the escalation of the situation. The response should emphasise how you plan to resolve the situation rather than focusing on the error or problem. Instead of becoming defensive, one may be thankful for the feedback and respond in a polite and concerned manner. 

A. Adhere to the Company's Policies and Procedures

Always refer to the company's policies and procedures as the first port of call to see if there is a standard procedure for handling complaints. Also check any contracts, terms and conditions agreed to or accepted by the customer. This will help to determine if the company is at fault or responsible for the issue and the next step on how to respond.

B. Responding to a Valid Complaint/When You are at Fault

If the complaint is clearly valid, or when you are clearly at fault, say that you appreciate the person notifying you and you are truly concerned about the problem.

Thank the Customer - Start by thanking the customer. It means that you start with a positive tone and thank the customer for spending time and effort to help you by raising this issue.

Identify the Issues and Express Sympathy - Identify the specific issues highlighted in the complaint. Respond in a sympathetic tone to inform them that you understand the issues. Showing that you care will help to preserve goodwill.
Explain and Accept Responsibility - Explain what happened but do not dole out excuses. Accept responsibility for it and sincerely apologize for any mistakes you or your company has made.

Resolutions - Your responsibility is to solve this problem as soon as possible. Explain clearly how you will help the customer to resolve the issue and pledge to do whatever you can to prevent it from reoccurring. List the precautions you will take to prevent similar problems. Provide appropriate compensation (if applicable).
Ending - End it by saying you hope to continue business with the customer.

Please refer to the section on Apology Letter for more information. 

C. Responding to an Invalid Complaint / When You are Not at Fault

Even if the complaint is invalid, the response should be courteous and polite to maintain your good image and goodwill. The tone and format should be similar to the situation where you are at fault, except for not admitting guilt.

Thank the Customer - Thank the person for writing about the problem.

Express Sympathy - You should be sympathetic to the complainant's point of view and reject the complaint with a graceful attitude. Be courteous, do not sound pompous and condescending because you are not at fault. Do not imply that the complainant shares the blame, even if he/she does. 

Be Tactful - You should be firm and tactfully explain to the complainant why what is alleged is not the case or that you are not at fault. 

Be Neutral and Stick to the Facts - Maintain a neutral tone and stick to the facts, thereby giving the complainant a sense of fairness, responsibility, and cooperation. Be careful not to start giving excuses.

D. Where the Situation is Potentially Litigious

Whether to admit fault depends on the circumstances. If the situation is litigious (threatened litigation), it may not be wise to admit liability. In most cases, if it is clearly your fault and you are willing to offer compensation you may want to freely admit your mistake and take up responsibility. If the complainant is asking for unreasonable compensation, one could make a counteroffer somewhere in between that is both acceptable to you and the complainant.


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