How to Handle Customer Complaints via Email: 8 Simple Steps to Email Composition

The digital world is booming!

We are using computers more and more in our personal and professional lives.

And with the rise of COVID-19, more and more businesses are transitioning to virtual methods of communication with customers. Most of these methods incorporate direct contact like over-the-phone conversations or real-time chat boxes online.

These options are favorable to companies because it allows for problem-solving discussions and troubleshooting while the customer is still present.

However, every so often (depending on your field), you may come across an email from a disgruntled customer.

So how do you go about resolving this customer’s problem, alleviating his/her concerns, and mending the bond between the customer and your company when you can’t speak directly to this person?

But before we get into the tips and tricks to sending that perfect email, we should discuss the pros and cons of email communication in a customer service position.

Advantages:

1.) You have an opportunity to find the best solution

When you are answering a customer’s concerns via email, you have time to sit back and assess the situation more fully.

When a customer is directly in front of you, or on the phone, or waiting in a chat box for your response, you have less time to think of a solution.

Customers anticipate when they call in to your line or consult you with their problems, that you will have an answer readily available.

This strain and pressure is lessened in email communication, which means that you can take extra time to examine all of the possible solutions to the customer’s problem and decide which one would be the best fit.

Disadvantages:

1.) You must choose your words carefully

Unlike in a direct conversation, it is difficult to decipher tone in written communication.

You can’t hear the inflection in people’s voices, you can’t read body-language, and you can’t fully sense someone’s emotional response.

Equally, the customer cannot sense your reaction, level of interest, or sincerity.

So your diction is even more significant!

2.) There is more room for miscommunications

If the customer does not fully explain their issues, you may misinterpret their problem, which will lead to you providing them with a solution that does not meet the customer’s needs.

Unlike in a conversation, there is less room for follow-up questions in email communication.

This can elongate the process which can frustrate customers even further.

How to formulate your email

Step 1.) Write a short and clear, but descriptive subject line

Your subject line is a promise of value.

In other words, your subject line should tell the recipient everything that they should expect to see in your email.

Step 2.) Use a professional greeting

Remember that even though you are speaking with a customer via email, you are still addressing a customer.

General rules of professionalism apply here.

Pro Tip: Avoid using colloquialisms (i.e. language that you would use in a familiar conversation). If you remain professional throughout the entire correspondence, the customer will see you as a credible advocate for the company. They will be more open to what you have to say.

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Step 3.) Introduce yourself at the top of the email

Inform the customer of your name and your position in the company.

This will introduce you as a human and not a nameless person behind a screen.

This should also remind the customer about their dealings with your company and refresh their memory of the issues that they may have encountered with your service or product.

This ensures that the customer will have a full understanding of your communication as they are reading your email.

Step 4.) Address the customer complaint

This not only refreshes the customer’s memory, but it also makes the customer feel heard.

By repeating their complaint in your own words, you are basically telling the customer “Hey, I heard you. I have an understanding of your problem and I am here to give you a solution.”

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This will establish authority, and will give the customer a sense of comfort that you are working to aide them.

Pro Tip: Refrain from using “I think” or “I believe” statements. In this correspondence you are the professional. You have all of the answers (or at least it is anticipated that you do). Avoiding these terms will help you establish authority and will also leave less room for argument.

When you are addressing customer complaints, you’ll want to be cautious of your language. You don’t want the customer to think that you are accusing him/her of doing something incorrectly or to think that you are being condescending.

Step 5.) Offer your solution

Now that you have established a bit of rapport and authority with your customer, you can go ahead and offer your solution.

Pro Tip:

If your customer had more than one concern, number your solutions (making sure to readdress the complaint) so that the email is easier to follow.

This will help you to make sure that you address all of the customer’s issues.

Numbering your solutions will also allow room for the customer to skim to find the topic of most importance to them, while also making it easy for them to refer back to the email later.

Step 6.) Apologize

It is always in good taste to apologize to the customer for the inconveniences that they suffered (the initial problem, the wait for the solution, etc.).

This is a great place to personalize your email which will give your correspondence an authentic feeling (again, establishing yourself as a human and not a nameless face).

Step 7.) Leave room for further correspondence

Now that you have established rapport, addressed the customer’s problem, and offered a solution, you will want to let the customer know that they can reach back out to you should they experience any more complications.

Step 8.) Use a friendly, but professional salutation

Here are a few tips to help you the next time you need to communicate with a customer via email.

1.) Be clear and concise

2.) Carefully consider your organization

Again, you want to make this process as painless and stress-free as you can manage.

One of the easiest things that you can do is separate each of the sections above into paragraphs.

Pro Tip:

Make use of your space key (white space makes long text less intimidating).

3.) Be genuine

4.) Reread and revise

Always, always, always reread your email before you send it.

Double check to make sure that all of the customer’s concerns have been addressed.

Make sure that you do not have any spelling errors (these small mistakes can do serious damage to your credibility and rapport).

Now YOU can email like a pro!

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