Dealing with Complaints – Customer Service Training

If you or your staff have to deal with customers both face to face or over the telephone then effective Customer Care training is essential in enabling you to develop a Customer Caring or ‘Customers First’ attitude to delivering service effectively and consistently.

Total Success run a one-day Telephone Skills and Customer Care course for those wishing to learn telephone etiquette and handling customers on the telephone.

For those who’s customer service training requires tips and techniques in both telephone and face to face skills in handling difficult customers (such as rude, angry or aggressive customers) as part of their daily duties we also provide a Customer Service and Customer Care training course that deals with these types of customer. It also covers handling customer complaints; tips for retaining customers and how to diffuse customer conflict quickly and efficiently.

More and more companies are increasing their use of the telephone as the quickest and most convenient way of establishing customer contacts. Call centres and mail order are the fastest growing operational departments for UK organisations. It is essential that all employees represent their organisation in a professional and friendly way. Clear and effective communication is essential to ensure that the business is not lost. If your staff are not trained properly on telephone skills, how much business are they losing your company?

Nobody wants to receive a letter of complaint. The fact is that, in almost any organisation, they will be received unless we are perfect. The natural reaction is to get upset and defensive. The professional approach is to treat a complaint as an opportunity. Most people do not bother to complain. They simply go elsewhere and perhaps tell their acquaintances not to use your organisation.

Those who complain are taking the time and effort to point out what has happened and how they feel about it. Your purpose in writing a letter back is to put things right and try to restore the relationship with the person concerned.

Your response to a complaint naturally depends on the situation. Guidelines are set out below for each case. Note that all three start by thanking the reader for their letter and expressing sympathy.

We are wrong and must admit it

Thank you for your letter
I am sorry
Explain what happened — not in detail
Say what will be done, when and how
Yours sincerely

We are right but in the interests of public relations meet the claim

Thank you for your letter
Sympathise, show concern
Say what we are prepared to do
Explain how to prevent the same thing happening again
Yours sincerely

We are right and are not prepared to meet the claim

Thank you for your letter
I can understand your point
However, this is our point
Because of our point we can’t help
Explain how to prevent a similar occurrence in future
Yours sincerely


  •  I have the complainer’s name and address (correctly)
  •  I have read the letter twice

The error is:

  •  our fault
  •  complainer’s fault
  •  misunderstanding
  •  other:

The complainer wants:

  •  apology
  •  action
  •  refund
  •  compensation
  •  assurance
  •  information on what to do
  •  other:

What I can offer:



Information I must give:




(now number the information in order to be used)

My first paragraph (preferably including the word ‘sorry’, ‘apologise or ‘regret’):



Now draft the remainder of the letter.






  •  Have I apologised?
  •  Have I used ‘I’ and ‘we’, but no accusatory ‘you’?
  •  Have I made future action clear (or lack of possible action)?
  •  Have I phrased information in the positive (what can be done/has been done)?
  •  Have I left the letter for some hours before sending it?
  •  Have I read the letter aloud, if possible to a disinterested colleague?
  •  Have I signed the letter personally?