Templates and Tips to Respond to Frustrated Customer Emails

Templates and Tips to Respond to Frustrated Customer Emails

If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know that unhappy customers are unavoidable. Customer satisfaction has plummeted since 2018, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index

Customer satisfaction has dropped since 2018.

That’s why top brands don’t wait until angry customer emails arrive to decide how to respond. By setting up processes and templates ahead of time, your customer support team doesn’t need to craft responses from scratch. Especially while emotions are running high and angry customers are waiting for responses. 

Below, you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to process and respond to angry customer emails, considerations for handling angry or rude customers without making the situation worse, and tips to prevent angry customers by improving your customer experience (CX). We'll also share templates and sample emails for how to respond to:


Is it worth it to deal with angry customers? 

When customers aren’t happy with your product, service, or customer support, the stakes are high. You could lose them as a repeat customer, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Angry customers also go and tell their friends and family, either by word-of-mouth, on social media, or via a Google review. 

What are the consequences of angry customers? Lost sales and loyalty, bad word-of-mouth, negative reviews and social posts, and agent burnout and quitting.

The Effortless Experience found that 96% of disgruntled customers who had a high-effort or bad experience with a brand feel disloyal to that brand afterward. In other words, a frustrating, high-effort experience will irreversibly damage your brand's reputation for almost any customer, whether they’re first-time or regular shoppers. That spells trouble for your bottom line.  

96% of customers who have high-effort experiences feel disloyal to those companies afterward.
Source: The Effortless Experience

Also, your customer service team doesn’t want to respond to nasty emails all day long. Customer service can already be an emotionally challenging role, and spending all day dealing with angry customers is a quick path toward burnout and quitting.

📚 Related reading: Read our guide to hiring A+ customer service agents, written in partnership with customer service agency Helpflow.com.

8 steps to take when responding to frustrated customer emails

Respond to angry customer emails by acknowledging the customer's frustration, owning any mistakes, gathering additional context, confirming you understand the entire situation, and fully resolving the issue.

These messages are high-stakes: When someone writes to your organization with an angry message, they’re angry enough to sit at their keyboard and express their anger. You’re lucky they wrote to you — the next message could be on a review website or social media. 

You’re lucky they wrote to you — the next message could be on a review website or social media.

It’s imperative to respond to every single angry customer email — ideally with fast response times.

0) Set up automated responses if you can’t quickly respond

If you have a small team or are only online for certain parts of the day, consider setting up a standard automated reply to confirm receipt of their email. We listed this as step 0 because it’s not a catch-all solution: You should not send this kind of email if you’re able to provide a human response within an hour or two. Nobody likes an extra, unnecessary email.

If you do choose to activate this kind of response, it should:

  • Confirm that you received the customer’s email so they don’t have to wonder if it went through
  • Tell the customers when they can expect to receive an email response from a human agent
  • Thank the customer for writing in

Here’s a mockup of how to create this kind of automated response with Gorgias Rules:

An example of a rule to automatically let customers know you're going to answer their question.

📚 Recommended reading: Get more tips and tricks to improve your response times.

1) Read the email first

This may seem obvious, but unless you address every point the customer makes, you’re only prolonging the correspondence and further irritating them. 

It’s easy to overlook something the customer says, particularly if the email’s pretty emotive or raises several points. So, try to summarize what they’re complaining about in a separate text document or as a note on the ticket in your helpdesk

Internal notes.

Consider bullet-pointing each issue to ensure you answer every aspect of their message, as shown in the internal note above. 

2) Do your research to understand the problem and context

Before responding, consider if there’s any research you can do on your end to resolve the issue faster. For example, if a customer asks whether an item will come back in stock, you may look up similar items currently available if that customer is in a time crunch (like for the holidays). 

You’ll also want to ensure you have all of the context you need to provide a full resolution for that customer. 

For example, if a customer is trying to track down a lost package, take a look at the package history and order date to better understand why they’re upset and whether you’ll need to re-send the item or reach out to the carrier on their behalf. 

Ideally, your helpdesk has integrations with shipping software (like AfterShip) so you can see this information right next to the customer’s message (rather than having to navigate to a new tool).

Customer information in the Gorgias sidebar so you can provide detailed answers without switching tabs.

3) Escalate if necessary (based on policy)

Some requests, whether from a VIP customer, the urgency of the issue, or its scale, need to be escalated right away. Based on the policy you’ve set out for your support team members, encourage them to forward major concerns to the correct team quickly. 

Prioritize VIP customers to reduce lost loyalty.

📚 Recommended reading: Read our Director of Support’s guide to prioritizing customer service requests.

4) Thank them for writing

Yes, you've already done this in your automated message – but it doesn't hurt to do it again. So, always say thank you at the start of your email. You must acknowledge their complaint and show you care about their feedback.  

For instance, if a customer has written to complain, you could start with something along the lines of:

Thank you for contacting [your company name] and letting us know about your experiences with our [insert name of the product/situation]. We appreciate you contacting us to let us know. We value customer feedback so that we can work to provide you with gold-plated customer service.’

5) Use their name and take a personalized approach

If you're not already, it's time to take a personalized approach to customer service. While this means taking a more holistic approach to the service process in general, the first step is to take note of small details, like using a customer’s name in correspondence. 

Consumers crave a personalized experience; they want to be treated as individuals, not as just another support ticket. That means avoiding asking them for information they’ve already given you again. It also means using a customer support tool that provides all of their historical account information in one place. Your helpdesk should show all past orders, correspondence with support, shipping address information, and even marketing emails they’ve received and clicked on. 

For example, Gorgias’ Customer Sidebar provides customer information right next to the ticket that can help you personalize the message.

Customer sidebear.

6) Acknowledge their problem

If your customer has taken the time to bring an issue to your attention, it’s polite and good practice to acknowledge that. So, in your response, reflect on what they’ve told you. 

For example, you could write something like this:

‘I can see that you’re frustrated [insert a suitable empathic summary of the customer’s feelings] about your experiences with our product/customer service. We can see how, on this occasion, we didn’t reach our normally high standards of delivery.

7) Provide a solution

Always focus on solving the customer’s problem. Find a solution and clearly explain the resolution to the customer’s complaint.

For example, if they’re upset about a product’s quality or performance, you need to refer them to your returns and replacements policy. On some occasions, it may be necessary to escalate a complaint if it’s not within your power to resolve. In which case, again, follow the protocol your company has to handle the specific issue so that it complements your current chain of command. 

According to a research study conducted by Gartner and later coined The Effortless Experience, 45% of customers who have a positive support experience tell less than three people. In contrast, 48% of customers with a negative experience shared it with over ten people. 

One bad experience leads to ten negative opinions.

While a positive, low-effort solution is a short-term expense for you, it could keep the customer on your side, netting future purchases or at least minimizing negative word of mouth and reviews.

8) Avoid offering the same solution twice 

If a customer is still upset after you’ve already offered a solution, chances are it wasn’t the right one. Ensure that you’re able to give the customer a few different options for a resolution in case the original one didn’t work for them (or wasn’t the result they hoped for). 

Of course, this should only go as far as your support policy states. If possible, tag in a customer service lead to see if you can make an exception to your policy. In a helpdesk like Gorgias, you can tag specific agents or an escalated team.

Considerations when writing responses to angry customer emails

Above, we covered the steps to follow when responding to angry emails. Below, we’ll share some high-level considerations to keep in mind when crafting responses.

Check your language and tone

Use clear language and show empathy. Always consider your audience. Remember, your audience doesn’t know your organization's internal workings or technical aspects. 

Interestingly, 65% of online shoppers prefer casual over a formal tone in their customer service interactions. That said, if the customer isn’t happy with your response or solution, 78% said that an overly casual style would elicit an adverse reaction from them. 

Why? Because it sounds like you're not taking their problem seriously.  

Also, consider the words you use. For example, remove any uses of the “but” from your responses. By eliminating negative terms like this, you’ll exude more of a positive tone, which works wonders for altering perception. 

For example:

“Thank you for contacting us, but we don’t provide that service.”


“Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, we're unable to provide that service. We do, however, provide the following….”

See the difference?

Through practice and experience, you’ll be better positioned to sense your customer’s tone. For example, if the customer’s frustration radiates through their message, show empathy by offering reassurance and the right level of apology. 

Check your grammar and spelling

There’s nothing worse than grammatical and spelling errors. Re-read your response and run it through a spelling and grammar checker. If in doubt, ask a colleague to double-check it for you. 

Some reputable online spell checkers include Grammarly, Reverso, and Language Tool. Your organization may already have a subscription for marketing or other purposes, so check what’s available. 

Decide whether they are frustrated or truly irate 

The key to understanding whether a customer is truly angry is empathy and context. 

Use empathy to dissect the tone and language a customer uses in their correspondence with you. Then, use the context they've given you and that you have about their order history to piece together their entire situation. 

For example, a customer might write in about a lost or delayed package. Based on the language they’re using, and the fact that they paid to upgrade shipping to get it in time for a friend’s birthday, tells you that this customer is angry and in need of a fast resolution. 

You should strive to provide top-notch support no matter if a customer is merely frustrated versus angry. But, your communication, time to resolution, and the solution you offer need to be even more considerate when dealing with someone who is truly irate. 

Deal with profanity in a professional manner

Sometimes, angry or frustrated customers will use profanity when complaining about an issue.  The best responses to rude customers involve focusing on what the problem is to help get them to a solution. 

Some customer service phrases to use include: 

  • “I understand why you’re upset – I would be upset as well in this situation. We will figure out a solution that makes you happy and that fully resolves this issue for you.”
  • “I understand how frustrating this must be, especially since it sounds like we really missed the mark here.” 
  • “I understand how disappointed you are. What kind of solution do you feel would make this right for you?”  

17 email templates you can use to respond to different customer issues

You may already have a series of customer service email templates you and your team use to handle various customer complaints. However, it’s always worth doing a little housekeeping to ensure they reflect your commitment to great customer service.

This is especially true if your customer service software comes with a set of templates already in existence. Don't make the mistake of just using these as they are. Instead, personalize them to reflect your own brand’s voice and tone. 

With that in mind, we’ve put together a summary version of some of the examples above to illustrate how to respond to an upset customer:

Dear [insert customer name],

Thank you for contacting us. I'm very sorry to hear you experienced poor customer service from the [insert your brand name] team.  

It’s important to us that our customers are happy, so we're sorry we could not provide our usual high service standards to you.

Possible paragraph:

Having investigated your complaint about [insert a summary of the complaint]. I'm happy to tell you; we can offer you the following solution [insert an explanation of the answer]. 

Alternative paragraph:

We're currently investigating your complaint about [insert a summary of the complaint]. Because your complaint involves several departments/strands/suppliers, it will take us a couple of days to get to the bottom of why, on this occasion, you received less than a gold standard of service from us. Thank you for your patience while we investigate this matter. I'll get in contact with you in two days to update you on our progress. 

Once the complaint is resolved, you could offer a discount to reduce the number of returns, which are more expensive to your business than exchanges:

We’d like to prove just how important you are to us by offering you a discount of [x%] on your next purchase.  

Sign off:

Thank you for bringing this negative experience to our attention. Once again, I apologize for any inconvenience caused. 

If there's anything else I can help you with or you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. 

Best wishes,

[Name and contact details]

If you use Gorgias, a helpdesk that deeply integrates with your entire ecommerce tech stack (including Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce), feel free to use the copy above as a Macro (which is what we call templated responses).

Your agents can use the template as a starting point and tweak it to meet each customer's unique needs.

Below, we’ve put together a series of templates that you can implement for different angry customer situations. 

Customers who are having product issues

1) General frustration with the product or experience

Hi {{Customer first name}},

Thank you for reaching out and letting us know about your experience with us. This is not up to our standard and I've passed this along to our team to ensure this doesn't happen again. 

In addition, I've {{Insert policy: refund, added a credit, send a replacement, etc.}} to make this right. 

We truly value you as a customer and apologize for the inconvenience this caused.

Please let me know if I can help with anything else.

{{Current agent first name}}

Customers with shipping and delivery problems

1) Order/shipping status (Where is my order?): Not shipped

Hello {{Customer first name}}, 

Thank you for reaching out! Your order {{Number of last order}} has been received and we are working on getting it shipped out. Our processing time to ship an order is 3-5 business days, excluding weekends. 

We will email you a confirmation once it ships, which will include your tracking information as well. 

If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 


{{Current agent first name}}

2) Order not shipped because the item is out of stock

Hi {{Customer first name}},

We wanted to let you know that your most recent order {{Number of last order}} is currently out of stock. We’re doing everything we can to get more in stock soon and we apologize for the delay!

The good news is that our next shipment should arrive by {{Date of availability}}, and you should receive your order within {{Number of business days}} once the item(s) gets to our warehouse.

Thanks for your patience! We’ll get you taken care of as soon as possible.

{{Current agent first name}}

3) Item arrived damaged 

Hi {{Customer First Name}}, 

Thanks for reaching out about your recent order {{Number of last order}}. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. As we try our best to provide exceptional service, some factors like shipping and handling are out of our control and issues like this can happen.  

Please send us a photo of the broken/damaged item(s) you received and we’ll do our best to resolve this as soon as possible. 

{{Current agent first name}}

Customers with missing or late orders

1) Order is lost 

Hi {{Customer First Name}},

Thank you for reaching out! I’m so sorry to hear that you were unable to locate the missing package. Rest assured we will remedy this situation for you. 

I have two options to offer: we can ship a replacement to you or issue a full refund for the order instead. If you prefer a replacement order, we kindly ask that you confirm the shipping address of where you would like the replacement order sent. We look forward to receiving your reply.

{{Current agent first name}}

2) Order/shipping status (Where is my order?): Delivered, not received

Hi {{Customer first name}}, 

I'm sorry to hear that you haven't received your order yet. It does appear to be in a delivered status. Sometimes this can be due to an incorrect scan by the carrier. If the package doesn't show up in the next {{Insert the number of days according to your policy}} please reach back out and we will {{insert internal policy}}. 

In the meantime, I've contacted the carrier and will be investigating on my end. 

Please reach out if I can help with anything else and I will keep an eye out for your email regarding the package.

{{Current agent first name}}

3) Order is late 

Hi {{Customer First Name}},

We regret to inform you that your order {{order number}} has been delayed.

We apologize for any inconvenience, and we appreciate your understanding. The reason for the delay is {{reason for the delay}}.

You can track the status of your order using this tracking link {{Link to tracking portal}}.

If you’d like to return or exchange your order, you can do so here {{Link to return/exchange portal}}.

Once again, we apologize for the inconvenience. Please let us know if you have any questions or can provide further assistance. 


{{Current agent first name}}

Customers who got the wrong product

1) Wrong item delivered

Hi {{Customer First Name}},

Thank you for letting us know we sent you the wrong product. We apologize for the inconvenience. We are sending you the correct product, the {{correct product name}} and it will be shipped by {{estimated shipping date}}. 

We sent it using expedited shipping, so you should receive it {{estimated delivery date}}. Please return {{old product}} in the original shipping box and packaging using the attached shipping label and instructions. Please contact us with any additional questions. 

{{Current agent first name}}

Customers who have a cancellation request (purchase or subscription)

1) Order already shipped 

Hi {{Customer first name}}, 

Thank you for reaching out to us! 

Unfortunately, it looks like your order {{Number of last order}} has already been shipped from our warehouse. Therefore, I’m unable to make any changes to it at this time. 

If possible, refuse the package at delivery. If that’s not possible, please let me know and I will send you a prepaid shipping label so that you can send the order back to us. Once we receive the order back at our warehouse, I will send a {{Replacement or refund}} to you right away. 

{{Current agent first name}}

2) Order change/cancel before the item ships 

Hi {{Customer First Name}}, 

Absolutely! I’ve swapped out {{Item name}} for the {{Item name}} you originally selected for order {{Number of last order}}. 

If you need anything else, just say the word. 


{{Current agent first name}}

Customers who want a refund or exchange

1) Item is eligible 

Hi {{Customer first name}}, 

Thanks for reaching out! For your order that was delivered on {{Shipping date of last order}}, we’d be happy to process a refund for you. 

To get the return process started, please go to our {{Link to returns portal}} and follow the steps. 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

{{Current agent first name}}

2) Item not eligible 

Hi {{Customer First Name}},

Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, your order {{Number of last order}} is unable to be returned because it is outside of the time window (30 days) outlined in our return policy.

I apologize for any inconvenience that you’ve experienced because of this. 

If there is anything else I can help you with, feel free to reply to this email or visit {{Link to help center}} at any time. 

Thank you again,

{{Current agent first name}}

3) Exchange request after the order arrives

Hey there {{Customer first name}}, 

Thanks for reaching out about your recent order {{Number of last order}}. I see that you are interested in a product exchange. We do allow exchanges, and I’m happy to help you with this right away. 

{{Exchange policy and instructions}}

Once you have {{Required action(s)}}, I can process your exchange and get a new {{Product name}} shipped out to you right away. 

Thanks again, 

{{Current agent first name}}

Customers who had a bad support experience

1) Non-escalation 

Hi {{Customer first name}},

Thank you for reaching out and letting us know about your service experience with us. This is not up to our standard and I've passed this along to our team to ensure this doesn't happen again. 

In addition, I've {{Insert policy: coupon, refund, added a credit, send a replacement, etc.}} to make this right. 

We truly value you as a customer and apologize for the inconvenience this caused.

Please let me know if I can help with anything else.

{{Current agent first name}}

2) Escalate to technical support 

Hi {{Customer first name}},

Thank you for reaching out and letting us know about your experience with us. This is not up to our standard and I've passed this along to our team to ensure this doesn't happen again.

I have CC’d {{Technical/Lead agent first name}} on this email. They will be able to figure out what happened here and will follow up to ensure that we resolve this for you. 

{{Current agent first name}}

3) Customer hasn’t received a response or resolution to their problem

Hi {{Customer first name}},

Thank you for following up with us. 

We sincerely apologize that we didn’t get back to you — we’ve been overloaded with requests lately and yours slipped through the cracks. This is not the type of support experience we strive to provide. 

To answer your original question {{Provide context and a resolution to the original issue or request}}. 

I hope this helps! 

All the best, 

{{Current agent first name}}

Customers with no clear reason to be upset

1) General, sincere apology 

{{Customer First Name}},

Thanks so much for your feedback on {{Concern or issue they had with the brand or their experience}}.

We strive to provide an amazing experience for all of our customers, and sometimes we fall short of doing that. We sincerely apologize for the experience you’ve had with our brand. 

As a token of our appreciation, we’d like to offer you {{Discount code, free gift, free shipping on next order; whatever aligns with your policy}}. 

Have a great day, 

{{Current agent first name}}

2) Reply to a bad customer review 

{{Customer First Name}},

Thanks so much for your feedback on {{Customer survey, review site, etc.}}.

I wanted to check in and get a little more information from you about your experience. This will help our team improve future experiences for you and other shoppers. If you’re open to it, you can just reply to this email and share your thoughts.

Thanks for your time, 

{{Current agent first name}}

How to identify an angry customer (with examples)

Angry customers use harsh language and accusatory words, and often make demands to your company or service team. 

Some examples of phrases and words to look out for include:

  • I’m very frustrated 
  • I’m upset because… 
  • I needed this for an {{important event}} and it’s not here
  • You need to fix this right away 
  • This is all your fault 
  • I’ll never shop with you again 
  • This is ridiculous 

Additionally, keep an eye out for any language that includes profanity.  

As your team grows, you can also use a helpdesk with Intent and Sentiment Detection, which automatically scans tickets to tell you what a customer’s looking for and how they’re feeling. The main benefit is that you can send different automatic responses depending on the customer’s intent and sentiment. 

Tools like Gorgias can identify a ticket's Intent and Sentiment to help your team (or automation) provide the most appropriate response.

How a frictionless customer experience can prevent angry customers

While every brand deals with angry customers from time to time, the best ones design a customer experience that, hopefully, doesn't produce so much frustration. Customer experience is a broad term, but there are a few areas of opportunity to mitigate customer frustration more proactively. 

Build customer self-service resources 

Customer self-service resources allow customers to quickly solve their own problems. They include:

Provide self-service solutions that improve the customer experience and proactively answer the customer's question (before they have to reach out to support).

Being able to self-serve information gets them an immediate resolution and saves them the time and hassle of reaching out to you. You might be surprised how many angry emails you avoid by: 

Create a seamless post-purchase experience

A positive post-purchase experience sets the customer up for success from the very beginning, starting with quick order confirmation emails to fast order fulfillment and going all the way to returns

A great post-purchase experience involves: 

  • Figuring out the touchpoints on your customers’ journey where you need to be in contact with them 
  • Setting up email campaigns like welcome emails, order confirmation details, shipping and tracking information, an order tracking page, and notifications when an item gets delivered
  • Providing a fun and exciting unboxing experience
  • Sharing links to your help center and to how-to content for assembling and using your products
  • Creating a simple returns and exchanges portal via a tool like Loop Returns 
  • Share information about rewards and loyalty programs 
  • Ask for feedback, both positive and negative, and implement it 
  • Involve new customers in your brand community
  • Provide omnichannel support to meet new customers where they are 

Introduce faster support channels 

If customers need to reach out to you to ask a question, either pre or post-purchase, your best bet is to make it quick and easy to do so. Channels like live chat support, social media support, and SMS messaging support are more immediate channels where customers can see fast responses. 

Live chat and social media, for example, can help you make more sales by answering product questions to quell any objections before a customer makes a purchase. Water filter brand Berkey Filters even advertises their faster channels (live chat and SMS) on the website to steer customers to those fast channels:

Source: Berkey Filters

The quicker and more seamless you make getting support for your customers, the more likely they are to reach out to you when they have a problem, rather than simply not purchasing from you again. 

In addition, some customers look at what support options are available before they make a purchase. Having these options available can help shoppers feel more comfortable and confident that if they have an issue, you’ll be there quickly to help them resolve it. 

📚Recommended reading: Check out our CX-Driven Growth Playbook for a more robust list of tactics to improve your customer experience, reduce customer anger, and boost revenue by up to 40%.

Are you ready to improve your customer service copy?

You’re now fully prepped to polish your customer support email copy, so even the most unhappy customers walk away happy. Exceptional copywriting isn’t rocket science; it's a skill you can certainly nurture over time, so keep practicing and paying attention to customer responses.

And when you pair great customer service copy with the right customer service automations, you can delight customers at scale. How? You can respond to low-impact tickets (like, "Where is my order?") with helpful, dynamic responses so you have more human time to deal with high-impact tickets like angry customer complaints.

And you don’t need us to tell you that happy customer relationships lead to higher profits. Check out our guide to customer service ROI to learn how to translate your customer service into meaningful business results. 


Frequently asked questions

How do you respond to a frustrated customer email?
How do you respond to an email with profanity?
When should you not respond to an angry customer email?
Jordan Miller
The customer service platform built for ecommerce brands

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