Common Customer Complaints: 8 Examples and Solutions

At the end of the day, businesses exist for one reason: to serve their customers. Without them, they simply wouldn’t have a business at all. And if businesses don’t serve their customers well, chances are the customers will take their business elsewhere. 

Since no product or service is perfect, it makes complete sense that customers will have some complaints from time to time. Though there will inevitably be some one-off requests that require research to resolve, many are fairly routine. 

In this article, we’ll explore the three types of customer complaints, look at examples of common requests, and offer suggestions on how to resolve them, including some example responses you can use for your own support needs.

3 types of customer complaints 

Though there are a variety of issues a customer may have, realistically there are a few distinct buckets that a majority of requests fit into: 

  • Time-based complaints. 

  • Company-based complaints. 

  • Product/service-based complaints. 

Time based 

We all know that time is valuable. It’s the one thing we can’t make more of or get back once it’s gone. Time-based complaints are essentially complaints based around something not happening in the timeframe the customer expects. The best way to handle these types of complaints is by being as specific about times and processes as you can possibly be. 

Most people reaching out with a time-based complaint are looking to be heard as well as reassured. Offering concrete timelines and steps can help on the reassurance front. Owning delays can also go a long way in letting the customer know you hear and empathize with them. 

Company based

Company-based complaints are complaints that are about how your business operates or about direct interactions with your company. For example, this type of complaint could be someone reaching out after having a less-than-stellar interaction with someone on your team. It could also be a complaint about a company policy. 

In these cases, it’s good to acknowledge the issue. If it’s a personnel issue, then you can assure them about following up or you can escalate to a manager. If it’s a policy issue, you could do your best to offer some more insight into why a certain policy is in place. 

Product/service based

The biggest bucket of complaints you’ll get are ones tied directly to your products and services. These requests could be about things like a product lacking a certain function, feature or service requests, bug reports, and other things in that realm. 

With these types of complaints, it’s good to offer solutions or workarounds when available. You could even point them in the direction of another provider if it’s simply something you don’t offer, which can help build credibility with the customer. 

It’s good to track these types of complaints as they can provide great insight into potential future areas of investment for your company. For example, with Help Scout you’re able to create tags to identify different issues, and then you can review analytics to see how commonly that tag shows up, which could show how popular a certain request is.

Best practices for responding to customer complaints 

Although all customer complaints are different and should be handled on an individual basis, there are a few best practices to keep in mind no matter what type of complaint comes your way. 

Acknowledge the issue

So much of the time people simply want to be heard and validated. By acknowledging the issue, you’re showing the customer you care and that you take their request seriously. There’s a saying that goes, “Anytime you argue with a customer you lose.” Even if you’re not at fault, a simple acknowledgement can go a long way to keeping you in someone’s good graces. 

Lead with honesty 

Sometimes it’s tempting to bend the truth or be a bit vague to avoid upsetting someone further. No one likes to deliver bad news, but sugarcoating often doesn’t do much for you in the long run. Be upfront with customers about what you can and can’t do. Otherwise you run the risk of misleading someone or needlessly dragging out an interaction, both of which can leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth. 

Offer a solution 

You won’t always be able to do exactly what someone wants, but it’s very rare you’re not able to do anything at all for them. Instead of getting bogged down by what you can’t do, do your best to find what you can. Even if it’s not perfect, it shows initiative and a willingness to help.

For more best practices, check out our Step-By-Step Guide: How to Handle Customer Complaints.

8 customer complaint examples (and how to respond) 

Below we cover eight common customer complaints and offer some example emails on how you could respond. These are written to be a bit on the general side of things, but with a little editing they should be useful for most teams. 

1. Product issues 

One of the most common types of complaints are issues with your product or service. Generally these complaints have to do with a product not functioning as expected, or perhaps something was damaged during shipping. 

The best way to respond to these requests is to let the customer know exactly how you’re going to remedy the issue and the steps involved in doing so. If you can offer timelines, that’s always a nice touch, but be sure you can meet them if that’s what you commit to. 

Here’s how that might look in an email response for a broken item: 

Hi <customer name>, 

Thanks for the message and I’m sorry to hear about the trouble. We do our best to pack products carefully, but sometimes things happen in transit. I’m happy to get you a replacement — you’ll just need to ship the original item back to us.  I’ve attached a prepaid shipping label to this message. 

In the meantime, I’ve already put a request in for a replacement. It should ship within the next <x> days. Assuming normal shipping times, it should get to you no later than <x> day. You have <x> amount of time to ship the original item back. In the case the original item isn’t returned, we will charge you for the replacement. 

Again, my apologies for the trouble, and if you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

All the best, 

<agent name>

2. Long wait times to get a response 

Waiting to get a response about an issue is usually a very frustrating experience for customers. And over the years, customers’ expectations of how long a response should take have steadily increased. In fact, one study found that 31% of customers expect a response within an hour

Tools like Help Scout’s saved replies can help agents respond to routine requests quickly. Automation tools like workflows also help speed up responses by automatically sorting and assigning requests to the right teams and agents. Autoresponders can also be powerful tools to direct requesters to self-service tools like a knowledge base or an FAQ page to help them resolve their issue on their own.

That message could look something like this:

Hi <customer name>, 

Thanks so much for the message. Our team strives to respond to every email request within <x amount of time> during the week, but we have limited availability on the weekend. If you need assistance sooner, you’re welcome to contact us at <list other contact options if available>. You can also check out our knowledge base or our FAQ page <here>. 

We’ll be in touch soon. 


<agent name>

3. Incomplete or lacking support resources 

Customers today are more than willing to try to help themselves. Around 70% of people will actually try to find an answer on their own before contacting support, and not being able to find the answer they’re looking for can be really frustrating. 

In these cases it’s important to route the customer to the needed resource if it exists. If not, you could create a quick guide using screenshots or a screen recording tool like Loom. Those can be very impactful interactions and also could be a good way to start building a support library. At the least, it’s important you let them know the different ways they can contact you if they need support in the future. 

Here’s how this type of message might read:

Hi <customer name>, 

I’m happy to help with <x issue>. While we don’t currently have documentation for <x issue>, I’ve created a quick guide for you to follow: 

<put guide resource here>

If you have any further questions, you can contact me directly through this message thread at any time. We also have <x channels> where you can get in touch if you need us in the future. 

All the best, 

<agent name>


Hi <customer name>, 

Sorry you struggled to find what you’re looking for! Here’s a link to <documentation for their issue>. It’s a great guide to help with the specific issue you’re facing. If anything in the guide is unclear, or you have any further questions, please let me know. 


<agent name>

4. Having to repeat information

Being bounced around and having to retell an issue multiple times is a bad experience. Period. It’s why 72% of people say having to repeat their issue to multiple people is poor customer service.

The remedy in this scenario is to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. It’s common for help desks to have some sort of internal notes capability. For example, with Help Scout, agents can quickly create conversation summaries with AI summarize as well as add notes to a conversation so anyone taking over the case in the future has more context. 

If you’re taking over a case for someone else, it’s always good to let the customer know you’re aware of what the issue is. You can even ask for confirmation before getting into the details of a resolution to ensure you’re delivering all the most relevant information. 

If you’re doing it right, it might look like this:

Hi <name>, 

My name is <agent name> and I’ll be handling your request moving forward. I see you’ve had trouble with <insert brief summary of their issue>. I just want to confirm that’s correct so we can move toward a resolution as quickly as possible.

Looking forward to your response, 

<agent name>

5. Difficulty connecting with a live agent 

Even though people do want access to self-service tools like a knowledge base and an FAQ page, they also still want access to live agents when struggling with an issue. Sometimes customers have to jump through hoops and endless IVR phone menus to get to a live person, which creates a less-than-ideal customer experience and often leads to customer complaints.

When you receive these types of complaints, it’s important you empathize with the customer and acknowledge their frustration. If there is a live channel available, let them know how to access it and what the associated hours are (for example, maybe you’re only staffed 9 a.m-5 p.m. Monday through Friday CST). 

Some modern teams shy away from traditional live support options like phone support, but many help desks offer live chat solutions, which aren’t as resource intensive. Research found that millennials actually prefer chat support over any other form of support, so it could be a very worthwhile investment. 

If you get one of these complaints, here’s how you might respond:

Hi <customer name>, 

Thank you for the message. I’m sorry getting in touch with us was a frustrating experience for you and I completely understand wanting to get a problem solved ASAP. We do offer live support through <insert channel> on <x days> and during <x hours>. For any issues outside those hours, <x channel> is usually the best option to get a response quickly. 

Again, my apologies for the frustration, and if there’s anything else I can help with, please let me know. 


<agent name>

6. Bad agent experience 

Though it’s certainly almost never intentional, sometimes customers don’t have great experiences with a support agent. Most of the time it comes down to some sort of miscommunication. But, as the saying goes, “perception is reality.” 

When you get one of these types of complaints, it’s important you let the customer know you’re taking it seriously. Acknowledge their message and offer reassurance that it won’t happen in the future. You should also review these cases to see if there’s a learning opportunity for the agent. Last, it’s probably best if someone other than the original agent responds. 

You might respond to a complaint about an agent interaction like this:

Hi <customer name>, 

We sincerely appreciate your feedback and apologize that the interaction didn’t go as hoped. We take pride in offering great service and take it seriously when we don’t meet expectations. We will be reviewing the interaction as a team so that we can learn from it and provide better service to our customers in the future.

While I have you here, I also wanted to check in with you to ensure that your original issue has been fully addressed. If there’s anything I can do to help set things right, please don’t hesitate to let me know.


<manager name> 

7. Feature/product request 

It’s common for customers to ask for new features or products. If you get these, you should take it as a great sign. When customers make these types of requests, it shows they’re invested in your company and engaged with what you’re doing, so it’s good to show gratitude. 

For these responses, it’s good to acknowledge the idea. If it’s something you’re working on and can talk about, share it with them. If not, you can let them know you’ll pass the message along. Also, if there’s a workaround that would help them accomplish what the feature they’re requesting does, share it as it could be a big win. 

Some help desks also offer the ability to integrate with certain software that make tracking feature requests even easier. For example, Help Scout has a Jira integration that allows you to create feature requests or link to existing ones all without leaving the message. 

A response for a feature request might go like this:

Hi <customer name>, 

That’s a great idea! It’s not something we’re working on currently, but I’ll be sure to pass it along to the team. In the meantime, there is actually a workaround that could let you do something similar. 

<insert workaround>. 

If there’s anything else I can help with, please let me know. 

All the best, 

<agent name>

8. Out of stock item 

It’s a total bummer when you’re excited about a product only to find out that it’s out of stock. In these cases it’s pretty normal for customers to reach out and inquire about when something might be back in stock. 

For these types of requests, it’s best to give any information that you can. For example, if you know when a restock will happen, tell them. If it’s something that won’t be back, it’s good to share that information. Also, if you have a waitlist, offer to add them to it. No matter the case, be sure to err on the side of caution. If you promise something will be back and it doesn’t happen, you’ll only compound the issue. 

These responses tend to be pretty simple, but it might go something like this:

Hi <customer name>, 

You have great taste 🙂 Unfortunately, at the moment that item is out of stock. We don’t have a specific timeline on when that item will be back, but we are collecting a waitlist and I’m happy to add you to it and you’ll be notified when it’s available. 

Also, I know it’s not exactly the same, but <other item> is also a great product and could help fulfill your needs. You can learn more about it here <link to item>. 


<agent name>

Moving forward 

Customer complaints are a reality for every business. How you handle those requests can directly affect the viability of your business. Be thoughtful and solution-oriented, and you’ll be on the right path.

If you want even more pointers on how to handle particularly difficult customers, check out our related article, How to Deal with Difficult Customers.

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