Email feedback from customers can be great–some of the time.
When the customer is unhappy, it’s not so great, but that is when it is most important for you to have a great response.
After all, think about the times you have contacted a company about an issue.
The type of response you got probably really affected how you felt about the company after that.
It’s not enough to just avoid being rude.
If you got a response that felt canned or dismissive, you might not have wanted to do business with the company again.
In this post, you’ll learn more about how to respond to an email from an unhappy customer.
How to respond to an unhappy customer email
1. Respond in a timely matter.
2. Make sure you understand the problem.
3. Use the customer’s name.
4. Thank them and apologize.
5. Explain and offer context.
6. Offer a solution.
7. Consider offering an incentive.
8. Thank them again.
9. Sign off professionally.
How soon to respond to an unhappy customer email
It is best to respond to an unhappy customer email as soon as possible.
While you should respond quickly, “quickly” can mean different things to different people.
It might be within a day to some people and within a week to others.
You should give your customer an idea of when they can expect a response.
If you are a busy company that deals with a lot of emails, one way to do this is with an automated message that acknowledges receipt.
The email can provide a time frame in which the customer can expect a response.
Otherwise, if you do not deal with too many emails and this is something that you can do on your own, responding within 24 to 48 hours or one or two business days is generally reasonable in most situations.
How to prepare your response to
A lot of responding effectively to an unhappy customer email is about what you do ahead of time to prepare.
First, you should have any previous information you can get about the customer and their problem, such as prior emails or chat logs.
You should then read over their email carefully and do your best to understand their issue.
This can take reading it more than once if the problem is unclear or if the customer is really angry.
The latter can make you angry in return and can make it hard to craft a good response.
Take your time in understanding the problem.
You may need to write back and ask the customer for clarity if there is some part of the email that you don’t understand.
How to start a reply to an unhappy customer email
Start by using the customer’s name.
This helps personalize the email.
Your company may have a policy on whether to address customers by first or last name.
If you aren’t sure, it is usually best to defer to the more formal option of last name.
You should start by thanking the customer for their email, and apologize.
Name the specific problem that you are apologizing for.
For example, you might write, “I apologize that the dish you purchased was broken when it arrived.”
See 12 alternatives for “I apologize for the inconvenience” for more ideas on what to put here.
Addressing the problem in a response to an unhappy and angry customer email
You should give the customer some context for why the problem happened.
Customers do not want excuses, but it can help if they get an explanation.
You should take full responsibility even if what happened was out of your control.
If there is anything significant in the customer’s history, this is the place to address it.
For example, if this is the second time they have contacted you this with this issue, you might say this:
“We realize this is the second item that we have shipped to you that was broken, and we know that this is unacceptable.”
This acknowledges the extent of the problem and also demonstrates to the customer that you have a good understanding that this is an ongoing issue.
Explain how the problem will be solved in your response to an unhappy customer email
There are two parts to explaining how you will solve the problem.
One is addressing the issue on a company-wide basis.
For example, you might say, “We are reviewing our shipping practices and are adding additional packaging to protect our dishes.”
This lets the customer know that the company is responding and is taking the problem seriously.
It also lets them know that the issue is unlikely to happen again.
The second part of explaining how you will solve the problem is offering the customer something for their trouble.
This might be a replacement item, a refund or a discount.
Different responses are appropriate in different situations.
If the customer did not receive the item at all or it was unusable, such as the broken plate in the examples above, you should replace the item or offer a refund.
If there is going to be an inevitable delay in fixing the problem, you may want to consider different ways to say “Thank you for your patience.”
You can add an extra incentive, such as a discount on another purchase or an offer of something free, if you feel it is warranted.
This might be the case if you feel like the customer had a particularly bad experience, they are an especially loyal customer or they were polite in their email.
How to end your response to a dissatisfied customer email
At the end of your response, you should apologize again.
You should also invite the customer to respond with feedback if they feel it is appropriate or to get in touch if there are additional problems.
You can also follow-up separately in a few days or weeks, but it is good to let the customer know that the lines of communication are open.
Finally, you should use “Sincerely” or another professional sign-off.
See How to End an Email Professionally–Top Tips & Examples for other tips on how to wrap up this kind of correspondence.
Dos and don’ts in a response to an unhappy customer email
- Do use a tone of warmth and sincere empathy throughout.
- Don’t respond angrily to the customer, even if their initial email was angry or abusive. Stay professional and focus on de-escalating.
- Do use language that is professional but natural. Don’t be stilted or overly formal.
- Don’t make excuses. Customers want to know why the problem happened, but they also want to know you are taking responsibility.
Sample letter 1 of a reply to an unhappy customer email
Sometimes, you will get an email from a customer who just seems unhappy about everything connected to their experience.
Here’s an example of how you could respond to that:
Thank you for your email letting us know about the ongoing issues that you have been having. I sincerely apologize for the problems with your wifi connection, the brush-off you feel have received when you contacted customer service about it and the accompanying rate hike.
We have had a few outages in the area, and we are working on upgrading our equipment so that it doesn’t happen again. I am also passing your comments on to our phone-based customer service team about the issue that you had with them. We never want our customers to feel as though they are being brushed off, and we will retrain some of our representatives if necessary.
I understand that the rate hike must have felt like adding insult to injury in light of the problem you were having. I would like to offer you the next month free and the following six months at our prior rate.
You have been our valuable customer for six years, and we appreciate that. We want you to know how important you are to us.
Please let us know if you have any additional problems, and once again, I apologize for the poor service that you have been receiving recently.
Sample letter 2 of a reply to an unhappy customer email
The reply below is for a customer whose order never arrived.
Thank you for letting us know that your package has not yet arrived. I am sincerely sorry that you have had to wait this long.
I have tracked your package and it says it was delivered, so perhaps it went to the wrong place or it was dropped off and someone took it before you were able to get it.
I have sent out another item by express mail today, so you should have it by tomorrow.
If the other item ever does turn up, please keep it with our compliments.
Again, we apologize about the delay. We pride ourselves on our fast delivery times, but sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control that cause issues. We appreciate our customers and want to know when anything has gone wrong.
Please let us know if you have any further issues.
Customer Care, ABC Products
Example 3 for a reply to an unhappy customer email
In the example below, the customer received poor service at a brick and mortar location.
Thank you for writing to us about your recent experience in our North Shore store. I am very sorry that your experience was so poor. We value our customers above all, and our aim is to make sure that everyone goes away satisfied.
I have forwarded your comments on to the management at that branch, and we have made a note of it here at corporate headquarters as well. Our aim is to ensure that this does not occur again.
We are also sending you a voucher for 50% off your next purchase online or at any of our locations. Please click here to get the code that you’ll need.
Again, we are very sorry that we did not deliver the service that we are usually so proud of. Thank you for letting us know, and we hope that you’ll continue to visit our stores.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.