An inevitable part of doing business is responding to unhappy customers or clients. In many cases, formal language is required in both speaking and writing situations. Do you have the English skills to handle customer complaints?

English for Responding to Customer Complaints

Language of Apology

First, you must apologize for the problem.

  • I (sincerely) apologize for the inconvenience.
  • On behalf of (person/company), I offer my sincerest apologies.

Language of Explanation 

If there is an explanation for the cause of this problem, this is appreciated.

  • It appears that there was a misunderstanding.
  • There seems to have been some miscommunication.

Language of Culpability 

It is important that the customers know that the company takes responsibility and is not blaming them for the problem.

  • We take full responsibility for this issue.


Language of Remediation 

It is also important that they know that it will be fixed.

  • We can assure you that we will do anything and everything possible to make sure that this is resolved.
  • I promise that we will do everything possible to remedy the situation.

The language that you use to describe your company’s action depends, of course, on the problem itself. However, here are some useful vocabulary words to use in most situations.

  • Remedy (verb): to fix something. (See the above example.)
  • Compensate (verb) and compensation (noun): to provide something as an apology
  • Refund (verb): to give money back
  • Discount (verb): to lower the price
  • In-store exchange (noun): when a customer exchanges an item for another item in the store
  • Make up for something (phrasal verb): to compensate

Note that both REFUND and DISCOUNT can also be nouns, and the pronunciation of the words varies depending on if you are using the noun or the verb version of the word. For the nouns, the emphasis is placed on the first syllable:

  • I can give you a full REfund.
  • We can offer you a DIScount.

For the verbs, the emphasis is on the second syllable.

  • We are happy to reFUND your money.
  • We will gladly disCOUNT the item.

Ending the Conversation 

Once the customer is happy, make sure that you apologize again, also making sure that you have helped them with all of their issues.

  • Please accept my sincerest apologies.
  • Is there anything else I can help you with today?
  • Is there any other way that I can be of assistance to you today?
  • May I help you with anything else?

For more on Business English, check out some of our other articles:

CV vs. Resume?

Beginning a Business Email

Phrasal Verbs for Business English