What You Say In A Reply To A Complaint Letter
By Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
Letter-writing advice for business letter: When you reply to a complaint letter, maintain a helpful, friendly tone from beginning to end. Even if the complaint letter’s tone is angry, overcritical, and accusatory, you must remember to remain courteous and helpful.
A letter is not like an unrecorded conversation. You are creating a permanent record with words. If you lose it, replying in kind, matching harsh words with harsh words, your words could come back to haunt you.
Acknowledge the writer’s viewpoint, which is not the same as agreeing that their position is correct. You can say something like, “Based on what you’ve told me, I can understand how disappointed you are, etc.”
If it is going to take a while to investigate the situation, inform the complainer that you’re working on it, and will be back in touch as soon as you have some answers. And if the process takes quite a while, get back in touch with the complainer with periodic updates. This is very, very important.
One final point. A complaint can be an opportunity. Do not think of the time you spend replying as just a chore. It is an investment.
At the very least, the letter you received is feedback. The complainer is telling you how at least one person feels about your product or service. Many organizations pay secret shoppers in order to get this information. And at the very least, thank the writer for taking the time to let you know how he or she feels.
At a higherlevel, if you handle the complaint skillfully, you may strengthen your organization’s relationship with the complainer. And get more business. AND, when the complainer tells what a fine letter you wrote, it will enhance your image.
Stanley Marcus, the iconic president of Neiman-Marcus, told me in an interview that his company welcomed criticism, especially from picky, individuals. He believed that paying attention to complaints helped NM improve customer service, make good decisions about their product line, and sustain loyal relationships.
–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, contact us at 404-256-5927 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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