How To Respond to Customer Complaints (With Template)

Updated February 3, 2023

Customer complaints are an inevitable component of operating a company, and responding to them effectively can help you retain customers and improve your business practices. Handling customer complaints well requires listening, problem-solving and other skills. If your job involves interacting with customers and clients, learning how to respond to complaints effectively can help you promote a positive experience for all parties involved. 

In this article, we explain what customer complaints are, describe how to respond to customer complaints in seven steps and offer a template and tips to help you craft meaningful responses. 

What are customer complaints?

Customer complaints are issues that customers and clients describe to express dissatisfaction or disappointment with an aspect of a company. Types of customer complaints can include social media posts, online reviews, phone calls, emails, in-person complaints and other forms of communication. There are a variety of categories of customer complaints, including:

  • Customer service complaints: Customer service complaints involve dissatisfaction with a company's customer service process or a specific unpleasant interaction with a customer service team member.

  • Product complaints: Product complaints involve problems with a company's product or service, including product malfunctions or dissatisfaction with the product's appearance or functionality. 

  • New customer complaints: New customer complaints occur when new customers are dissatisfied with a company's products or services.

  • Repeat complaints: Repeat complaints come from regular customers who typically have positive attitudes toward your company.

  • Chronic complaints: Chronic complaints come from customers who complain on a recurring basis.

Related: 7 Types of Complaints From Customers (Plus How To Resolve Them)

Why is it important to respond to customer complaints?

While customer complaints may seem challenging to manage, it's important to respond because this process can benefit your company in many ways. Taking initiative to resolve complaints can help you retain customers and make important improvements to your company's processes. Complaints can also help you understand your customers better, which can be key to a successful company. For example, if you receive many complaints about a product being too complicated, you may want to focus on creating simpler, more intuitive products in the future. 

Related: The Key Benefits of Customer Complaints

How to respond to customer complaints

It's important to respond to customer complaints effectively to help you retain customers, as resolving complaints can give customers a more positive attitude toward your company. Here are seven comprehensive steps you can follow to respond to customer complaints:

1. Listen to the complaint

The first step to responding to a customer complaint is listening carefully to the entire complaint. Displaying active listening skills, including eye contact and feedback, can show your customer that you value their complaint. Listening carefully to the complaint can also help you fully understand the issue so that you can determine the best course of action later on. If you receive a complaint in writing, be sure to read over it several times to understand the issue.

Related: Qualities of a Good Listener and How To Be One

2. Apologize to the customer

Apologizing to the customer is another important step in responding to a customer complaint. Be sure to apologize to the customer in whichever setting they are complaining. For example, if the customer posted a negative review, respond to the review to maintain your company's reputation. Offering an apology can also help you connect with the customer before developing a solution.

Related: How To Apologize for a Mistake Professionally (With Examples)

3. Ask questions

Another important step in the process of responding to a complaint is asking follow-up questions to help you better understand the complaint. You can ask the customer to give you examples of the problem or to explain the problem further to help you understand the complaint as clearly as possible. Try to ask questions that dig down to the root of the issue so that you can identify where your company can improve.

4. Formulate a solution

After listening to the complaint, apologizing to the customer and asking follow-up questions, you can use your understanding of the complaint to plan a solution. Offer the solution to the customer and answer any questions that they have about it. Also, make sure to let them know how they can contact you in the future.

Related: What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

5. Verify that the solution works

Once you've offered a solution, it's important to verify that the solution works. Contact  the customer to make sure the solution worked and you can solve their problem. Taking this extra step can help you strengthen your customer relationship and show the customer that you care.

Related: 7 Ways To Use Customer Relationship Management

6. Thank the customer

It's also important to thank the customer for giving you feedback. Thanking the customer can help them feel valued and end your interaction on a positive note. This can help you strengthen your customer relationships and make them more likely to stay loyal to your company.

Related: How To Write an Effective Customer Complaint Response

7. Document the complaint

Once you've resolved the complaint, be sure to document it. Documenting complaints and solutions can help you spot patterns and identify areas where your company can improve. Investing in improving these areas can help you avoid future complaints and improve your customer experience.

Related: Customer Experience: Definition and Importance

Customer complaint response template 

Use this template to help you plan an effective response to a customer complaint: 

Hello, [customer name],

I've read over your complaint, and I'd like to apologize for [issue or concern]. At [company] we take [issue] very seriously, so I'm deeply saddened to hear that you've encountered this problem.

After careful consideration, I've determined that the most effective way to resolve this issue would be [solution]. Would you find this to be an acceptable solution? Is there anything else that I can do to resolve this concern?

At [company] we care deeply about our customer experience, so I want to thank you for reaching out. I'll be personally working on improving this issue, but I've also shared your issue with my team so that we can work to [ describe how you plan to minimize the likelihood of issues in the future]. 

Please feel free to contact me directly with any concerns or issues as we work on providing a solution. Thank you again for your thoughtful feedback.


[Your name]

Related: How To Deal With Difficult Customers: A Complete Guide

Tips for responding to customer complaints

Here are several tips you can use to help you respond to customer complaints:

Be proactive

One tip for responding to customer complaints effectively is to be proactive and pinpoint potential complaints before they occur. You can proactively handle complaints by sending surveys or emails to your customers after they purchase a product. This gives customers the opportunity to offer feedback to your company before they take their complaints online and complain publicly, which can help your company maintain a positive reputation. Asking your customers for feedback can also help you foster strong customer relationships.

Avoid rushing a solution

Another important tip is to avoid rushing a solution. Rushing your customer can make them feel frustrated and perceive that your company doesn't value them. Therefore, spend time listening to the customer and understanding their complaint before discussing a solution. This can help your customer feel valued and satisfied with the solution.

Train your employees to handle complaints

Another tip for handling customer complaints is to thoroughly train your employees to handle complaints. You can create a standard company protocol for handling complaints effectively. You can train each new and existing employee in the protocol to help ensure that everyone on your team knows how to respond to complaints in a manner that satisfies your customers and benefits your company.

Related: How To Effectively Train and Develop Employees

Determine what type of customer you're handling

It can also be helpful to identify the type of customer you're handling and their motive for placing a complaint. Try to determine what type of solution the customer is seeking, whether it's a refund, a replacement product or another solution. This can help you improve customer satisfaction and retention.

Related: 11 Different Types of Customer Buying Behaviors

Show empathy

Empathy is an important customer service skill, and it's crucial to show empathy when dealing with customer complaints. To show empathy, you can apologize to and connect with your customer. Let them know that you understand their complaint and want to come up with a solution. Try to consider the customers' feelings when responding and think about how effectively your solution can improve their concerns.


Explore more articles

  • How To Open, Read and Convert DAT Files (With FAQs)
  • How To Send a Meeting Recap (With Template and Example)
  • 15 Examples of Business Functions (With Definitions)
  • What Are Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Levels of Care?
  • 6 Job Advertisement Samples (Plus How To Write One)
  • What Is Discrete Data vs. Continuous Data? Uses and Examples
  • How To Write a Business Letter Salutation (With Examples)
  • 14 Effective Tips for Creating Value for Your Customers
  • How To Make a Life Plan in 6 Steps (And Why It's Important)
  • 7 Project Success Criteria Examples (With Benefits)
  • How To Earn an ESL Certification in 5 Steps (Plus Tips)
  • How to Write a Signature