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Dealing with Difficult People


What can frontline staff do to make those difficult conversations with customers or service users easier to handle?

Managing Stress in the Workplace


Why the best stress policies aren’t enough on their own.

Debt and Mental Health


What are the implications for organisations who employ staff dealing with debt recovery?

Customers or service users who talk about suicide


How should frontline staff respond to individuals who talk about suicide and what can organisations do about it?

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Responding to difficult or challenging emails and letters

Organisations recognise the importance of training staff to respond to difficult calls but sometimes underestimate the importance of also training staff to respond effectively to difficult emails. Ironically it can be the poor wording of a letter or email that leads an angry customer to pick up the phone.

We tend to use stock phrases in our written responses that are entirely appropriate for 95% of the correspondence we deal with. Unfortunately those same phrases can cause us difficulty when responding to people who are angry or have made a complaint, because our response can read as though we haven’t really ‘listened’.

When responding to an email from someone who is angry or upset a useful tip is to explicitly show that we have listened and understood the problem or complaint. If we are able to summarise what the person has said and react to it in the opening couple of paragraphs the recipient is certain that they have been heard.

Look at these two opening paragraph responses from ABC Bank to a customer complaint:

Response 1

Thank you for your email. I was sorry to read about the problems you have been experiencing and I note the details of your complaint.

ABC bank takes all complaints seriously and to advance this further I would be grateful if you would…

Response 2

Thank you for your email. You wrote that you have been experiencing some problems with our on-line banking service and that you are very unhappy about the level of service you received when you called our customer support helpline. I was sorry to read that this has led you to consider changing your bank.

ABC bank takes all complaints seriously and to advance this further I would be grateful if you would…


Response 1 is perfectly fine (and includes a reaction in the form of ‘I was sorry to read…’) but it could have been written by anyone regardless of whether they had actually read the complaint. Response 2 leaves the reader in no doubt at all that the details of their complaint have been heard and acknowledged. It doesn’t take sides, it simply summarises the details the customer has told us and also includes some human reaction with ‘I was sorry to read…’

‘You wrote that’ is a really powerful phrase to use at the start of a short summary of events because it doesn’t imply any judgment on our part. Phrases like ‘you say that’ or ‘you claim that’ can be read to mean we don’t quite believe what the person has told us!

Response 2 reduces the risk of the written complaint escalating into an angry phone call because the recipient knows they have been heard and the wheels are in motion.

This useful approach to constructing an opening paragraph can make a real difference when responding to those more difficult emails and letters.



Interested in finding out more about our bespoke training courses on handling calls or emails from customers or service users who are angry or distressed?  Call us or email us today to discuss your training needs further.