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How to handle a complaint perfectly

A colleague recently sent me an answer to a complaint he had sent to Delamaison.fr, an online shop specializing in furniture. As we recently discussed on this blog, most firms do everything wrong when it comes to handling complaints. But not Delamaison.fr which knows how to handle a complaint and scores 100% on our complaint satisfaction test.

Here’s the answer, followed by our analysis.  If you want to improve your complaint handling practices, this email can serve as an example.

Make sure you listen to the podcast we’ve recorded with Prof. Moshe Davidow on complaint handling (March 2020)

If you don’t want to read the whole analysis here’s the essence : apologize first, be polite throughout your answer and never question the customer’s arguments, explain what happened and what you are going to do, give clear deadlines, reassure the customer about the incurred costs,  manage the customer’s expectations and tell him what he might expect from you. And if you want to get tailored advice on how to handle your complaint and enhance your customer relationships, feel free to get in touch with us.

One good example to understand how to handle a complaint

1)      Dear Mr. L.

2)      Following your e-mail regarding your order DMR8007357 I received your photos of article ref. 2308876.

3)      I wish to reiterate my sincere apologies on behalf of delamaison.fr for the inconvenience.

4)      However, I inform you that we no longer have the product in stock.

5)      Therefore, we have to reimburse you.

6)      Regarding the defective item in your possession, I will ask immediately GLS to collect the package at your home.

7)      The carrier will contact you as soon as possible to set up an appointment.

8)      I’m asking you to carefully package the product and return it in its original packaging.

9)      An accompanying document for the return will be sent by email, and will need to be included in the package.

10)   I want to reassure you that the return costs are at our expenses.

11)   Upon receipt of the item in our premises, we will reimburse within 24-48 hours.

12)   A confirmation email will be sent once the transaction is completed.

13)   Remaining at your service

14)   Be assured that we do our utmost to satisfy you.

Analysis of an –almost- perfect answer to a complaint

The answer starts with the full name of the customer (line 1) which can already be perceived as a marker of politeness.

Line 2 briefly sumps up the situation. No need to write much; the customer knows more than you do about the situation and if you write too much, you could make errors, be imprecise, which would increase the customer’s stress even more.

Line 3 consists in an apology (read our article on the power of apologies and don’t follow the example of firms which don’t apologize)

Line 4 explains what should have been done, followed (line 5) by the direct consequence for the customer (“reimbursement”).

Lines 6, 7 and 9 explain clearly what will happen next. The customer gets the control back of the situation.

Line 8 can be considered the only “little” mistake  since it asks the customer to do something without proper forms of positive politeness.

Line 10 is excellent and reassure the customer about incurred costs.  Forgetting this line may have resulted in an immediate stress and further exchanges of emails.

Line 11 sets a clear (and short) deadline for the reimbursement.

Line 12 allows the customer to form expectations about how the process will end.

Advice and conclusion

Answering a customer complaint is never easy and facts show that firms often fail. If you want to be increase your customer satisfaction and loyalty, get in touch with us. We have a scientific understanding of consumers’ behaviors and years of expertise in the field of complaint handling.

World expert takes a closer look at customer complaints management

We had the opportunity to interview Prof. Moshe Davidow, a world authority on customer complaints management. He is the author of a leading article on the subject. We made a podcast with him. In the excerpt below, we report on current practices in complaint management, and he gives us his advice on how to turn an unsatisfied customer into a satisfied customer. A podcast to listen to urgently!


Image: Shutterstock

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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