5 Customer Service Email Examples For Tough Situations

Norman Arvidsson Norman Arvidsson · 6 min read

Remember to be clear, empathetic, and thoughtful. This will help you to be sure your customer service email resolves the situation appropriately.

There’s a very tangible moment when you realize that something has gone very wrong with a customer or client. That moment may come on the heels of your making a terrible mistake, from a miscommunication, something from the client’s end, a public relations disaster, or even something nobody involved could have foreseen. Whatever happened, you are now in a tough situation.

You’ve analyzed the situation and decided the most appropriate and effective way to handle the situation is email. It’s just a matter of composing the right customer service email that helps bring the situation to a point of resolution.

Below are some tips and recommendations for accomplishing that goal.

customer service emailIdentify What Makes The Situation So Challenging

It’s just a matter of course that businesses must occasionally deliver bad news. Not every email that doesn’t contain an entirely positive message needs extra thought and effort. If your situation does, you want to identify why. Is it a potentially large contract on the line? Does this particular customer have the power to influence your reputation? Do you want to be certain that you fix an issue, and take sincere responsibility?

All of these are valid reasons. Identifying them will help you determine how to proceed.

Know The Resolution You Want

Next, you want to determine the resolution you’d like to obtain. Do you want to maintain your relationship with your customer? Are you trying to ensure people involved in a scenario that an associate’s words or actions aren’t representative of your business?

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You might want to firmly and promptly sever a relationship with a client without giving them room to claim that you behaved unprofessionally in any way.

These situations aren’t just tough. They are often complicated with many things to consider. If you can focus on working towards your desired resolution, you avoid getting distracted by other details.

Advice For Uncomfortable Scenarios

Every scenario is a bit different. It’s impossible to cover everyone. Still, here are some of the more common ones.

1. Firing a Client

The first thing to consider here is, ‘Why?’. Are you firing a client who simply cannot or will not pay their invoices, one that has been abusive to your team, one that simply needs services you don’t offer, or that has beliefs and values that you cannot support in any way.

The best possible advice here is to avoid email and meet in person. Obviously, that’s not something you can accomplish with remote clients. In that case, be honest and clear. Communicate the finality of your decision. Here are two examples.

Dear Client,

First, thank you for allowing us to help you with multiple projects. Unfortunately, the lack of payment has created an untenable situation for us. While we understand that things happen, we are unable to move forward with our relationship at this time. A member of our team will be in contact to help transition outstanding items back to your team. We hope we are able to work together in the future.


Max Roundtable, CEO, Classic Web Design

Dear Client,

We are a company that prides itself on acceptance and diversity. As such, we employ developers and designers from many backgrounds. We were saddened when we saw recent Facebook posts from your CEO that run counter to our values. We respect everyone’s right to express their beliefs, but can no longer associate ourselves with ABC Mechanics.

Rest assured that all outstanding items will be completed. We will do so using the same high standards as we apply to all of our projects.


Joe Myers, Project Manager

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2. Turning Down a Request to Donate to or Sponsor a Cause

An important client sends you a request to sponsor a local golf tournament. The event is clearly important to them. The client is important to you. Unfortunately, you just don’t have the budget or time to take part.

A longtime customer sends an email asking if their grandchild can come to your salon to sell Girl Scout cookies to your customers. Here’s the problem. You have a strict no soliciting rule. You don’t even let your own employees sell things in the break room.

The best path in this situation is to find a way to sugar coat the refusal in some way. This way you don’t create bad blood but are able to refuse gracefully. A very personal response can also help.

Hi Stacy,

Thanks for offering to bring you granddaughter up here to sell cookies. I’m sure they’re delicious, and she’s always so well-behaved when you bring her. Unfortunately, I’ve enforced a no sales rule with my staff, and I don’t want to create any bad feelings.

That said, I love Girl Scouts, and I love cookies. Please put me down for 5 boxes of thin mints. We’ll see you next month!


3. Dealing With an Outage or Product Flaw

When others rely on your website, software package, or app to run their businesses, outages are painfully embarrassing. The same is true if you produce an item that turns out to be flawed. You need to take responsibility, assure customers that you are working towards a solution, and maintain confidence in your brand. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Personalize Every Customer Service Email
  • Be Honest About What You Know And What You Don’t
  • Provide people with a single point of contact for more information

Finally, don’t give your audience any more reason to be frustrated or critical. Make sure your email is properly edited and proofread. You can get some help with that from these sources:

4. Enforcing Scope or Other Boundaries

Kelly Willis of Grab My Essay says, “What do you do about the client who keeps adding new things to ongoing products, who contacts staff members after hours, or who asks for help on things they can do themselves? You may be dealing with someone who is overwhelmed or lacks confidence in their ability.

Consider giving them a helpful resource, ensuring them of their ability, and firmly establishing that you aren’t able to help further under current conditions.”

Hi Steve,

It looks like there have been some callouts to my accounting team on the weekends. I know that there are some tasks that can be a bit intimidating. I’m attaching a great document that should walk you through everything you need to know. I’m sure you can take over from there. If you need more help, go ahead and call Steve. As your account manager, he can help get you the best rates if you would like us to take over the task permanently.


Judy Williams, Business Development, Top Accounting And Income Tax Services

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5. Handling an Angry Customer

Jamie Irwin a customer support manager at Citatior says, “Some customers are justifiably angry, others not so much. In any case, you want to resolve the situation so that everyone is happy. Writing a good email can go a long way towards making this happens. You can do this by acknowledging the customer’s feelings, restating the problem as you understand it, apologizing, and offering a resolution.”

Hello Andrew,

I just read your review on Yelp. I was saddened to read that you weren’t happy that we couldn’t accommodate your food sensitivities. We want to provide all diners with a great experience. I’m so sorry we fell short with you. Please accept the coupon I’ve included for a free appetizer. If you contact Emma, our general manager, when you make your next reservation, she will make arrangements to ensure you can have a great meal.

Thanks for your time,

Susan, Chef, and Owner

customer service emailConclusion

It’s a great idea to be prepared with a thoughtful customer service email for tough situations. The examples above should help. Remember to be clear, empathetic, and thoughtful. This will help you to be sure your customer service email resolves the situation appropriately.

We have compiled 25 of our favorite customer service email templates + tips that can help you write enticing subject lines and get closer to your goals of increasing your open and click-through rates.

How did you like this blog?


Norman Arvidsson Norman Arvidsson

Norman Arvidsson is a writer supervisor at Supreme Dissertations. He has a Master’s degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado. In his spare time, Norman enjoys cycling, taking aerial photographs with his drone, and volunteering at the local bird sanctuary.

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