How a Business Should Handle a Complaint Letter


A lot of customers expect businesses to follow the "Old Golden Rule of Business" and say that the customer is always right. Life would be simple if that was the case, unfortunately, the customer is not always reasonable and not always right.  It is important for businesses to always recognize and respond to customer complaints - whether the business feels the customer is right or wrong.

When a customer takes the time to write a complaint letter they want a response from the business. Of course there is no law that says the business leader has to respond, but it is important to remember that an unhappy customer will tell as many people as they can get to listen about the problem. If the customer reports to their friends and family that they took the time to write a letter and no response was received it casts a dim light on the company.

When a complaint letter is received by a business it should be carefully reviewed. Information should be recorded regarding the unhappy customer's name, phone number, and address if the information is provided. Details about the complaint should also be officially noted. If an ongoing problem develops the records will help the leader to find the source of the problem.

Some customers will not provide contact information because they are just upset and want to share the information. If there is no contact information available then it is best to make a small note and file the letter in case a future problem develops. It should not be thrown away or shredded. If the problem is due to an unscrupulous employee then the letter provides an important record for their file.

If contact information has been provided by the dissatisfied customer then it is time to decide how to handle the situation. Questions to ask are:

  • What is the customer asking you to do? 
  • What is company policy regarding complaints?

The steps to take when replying to the customer are:

  1. Reply to the customer using the preferred contact method  they provided whether it is phone, email, or postal mail.
  2. Repeat the problem in your own words.
  3. Briefly sympathize with the customer's feelings.  It is important to acknowledge how the problem made them feel.
  4. Explain company policy to the customer. If policy includes a future discount or something free this is where it should be noted.
  5. Thank the customer for their patronage and invite them to visit the business in the future. This is often easier in a letter because the customer has time to calm down before replying.
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