How to reply a letter of complaint

Do you believe that the customer is always right? If so, you will write a Letter of Apology, which might go something like this:


Dear Customer,

We are extremely sorry that you have been disappointed in our service. We were definitely in the wrong and we sincerely apologise for all the inconvenience which you have had to suffer because of the negligence of our staff …

You might end by repeating the apology:

Once again, please accept our profound apologies.


You have just lost a customer!


In this extract, there are seven words which can only serve to erode your customer’s confidence even further in your company.

If the customer is right, then someone has to be wrong.

So don’t write any such thing!


In dealing with complaints,

the issue of who is right and who is wrong should not come into question.

So, when a complaint comes in,

write a Letter of Adjustment.

Using the ‘5 As’:

> Acknowledge:

This is not like acknowledging a cheque, so don’t write:Your letter has been received and the contents noted. As mentioned in a previous article in this column, this is rude.

Write a topic sentence which summarises the customer’s difficulties. Only when you have acknowledged the customer’s difficulties will you have credibility to do something about these difficulties.

Don’t use the word refer in a topic sentence. Write something like: Thank you for your letter of (DATE) in which you highlight to us the delays you have experienced in …

> Accept:

Accept the blame if you need to, but don’t write sorry and try to avoid apologies also; use regret, as it serves to place some distance between you and the conflict. Remember, the integrity of your company is in your hands.

> Account:

Account for the problem. Give some explanation. Don’t overdo this. I once received a letter of adjustment from a bank, in which I was informed that the manager of the department had been dismissed because of dishonesty.

Knowing that certainly did not increase my confidence in that bank! When you account for the problem, be briefly informative as a courtesy to the customer.

> Act:

Do something! Tell the customer what you have done or will do. You may not be able to accede to a request like I demand a complete refund! At least say that you are investigating the issue or that you have passed therequest (not demand) to your management for their consideration.

> Assure:

Do not write this common, though meaningless and insincere sentence: Assuring you of our best service at all times. It’s a lie! Nobody can ever assure this.

Similarly don’t write

We assure you that this will never happen again.

If it does happen again, you are in double trouble!

Assure only what you are capable of delivering. Before assuring anything, ensure that you have both the Capacity (physical and legal) and the Commitment (from all parties in the organisation) to deliver.


1 Comment »

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