13 Response Templates for Tricky Customer Service Emails

Even when you’re a highly skilled customer support professional who’s capable of holding friendly, nuanced, and helpful conversations with your customers, some conversations can get pretty tricky.

What’s the best way to tell someone they can’t have a refund or that you can’t let them log in to an account they claim to own?

To make those difficult conversations easier, we’ve put together these templates that you can use for inspiration to craft the perfect responses. Use these 13 customer service response templates and examples to craft your own replies to these tricky support requests. For each example, we've included some alternative approaches, and explained the reasoning behind the chosen answer.

Jump right to your chosen example:

  1. "I want a phone call, now!"

  2. "When are you going to add [feature]?"

  3. "I want a refund!"

  4. "Tweet me back."

  5. "Bring back the file export feature!"

  6. "I need access to this account!"

  7. "Your plugin is failing"

  8. "I can’t believe it still hasn’t arrived!"

  9. "I’m not doing your job for you."

  10. "I need a discount!"

  11. "Your shipping costs are ridiculous!"

  12. "You’re just not understanding me."

  13. "Your bug will not be fixed"

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1. "I want a phone call, now!"

A customer is demanding a phone call to solve their issue, but you don’t offer phone support and/or aren’t able to call them. They may be threatening to escalate above you or cancel altogether.

Recommended approach

In a time of stress like this, your customer can feel like you are refusing to help them at all, even though it’s really a conflict about where the help will come from.

Your answer should

  • Be firm about what you can and can't do.

  • Reassure the customer that you are there to help.

  • Make it clear the customer is in control.

Example response

Hi Jane,

I understand your frustration. For some customers, a lack of phone support is a deal breaker, and that’s completely understandable, but it’s not something we offer at this time¹.

I want to help you get you the answers you need, and we can definitely get that done by email, but I will need your help².

If you can provide the following information, that will help us track down what’s happening and figure out the best way forward³.

<reiterate your specific questions>

I really appreciate your help, and I know it’s stressful when you’ve got work to do and you’re stuck like this. As soon as you reply, I’ll be automatically notified so I can start investigating for you⁴.

  1. You can omit this if the customer isn’t threatening to leave.

  2. Position yourself with the customer against the problem, and gently remind them that they are the one holding up progress.

  3. Now that you’ve reset the conversation, repeat what you need to help them.

  4. People often want phone calls because they worry about speed or being ignored. Build their confidence by explicitly telling them what happens to their email when it arrives.

Alternative options

  • Offer live chat (if possible) as a perceived “faster” option to a solution.

  • Try offering an outbound phone call, but only if you and the customer try solving it by email first and fail. “I’m confident we can solve this by email, but if we try that and still can’t get you on track, then I’d be happy to call you.”

  • Hand off to a teammate who can focus on a solution without having the baggage of disagreeing about support channels.

2. "When are you going to add [feature]?"

A customer is asking for a product feature you know will not be added.

Recommended approach

It’s a compliment when your customers come to you for help because they like your work and they want it to solve more problems for them. So turning them down can be tricky, but better they know the truth than be strung along, hoping for something that will not arrive.

Your answer should

  • Be honest about the situation.

  • Explain why.

  • Acknowledge their need and address it if possible.

Example response

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the suggestion; I appreciate you explaining how it would help you out. While that feature isn’t currently in our development roadmap¹, we are working on big improvements that will be helpful for the majority of our customers², and you’ll see those rolling out soon.

While we can’t build exactly what you’re after, I do have a suggestion that might get you most of what you need.

<your suggested workaround>³

Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us! We always appreciate feedback and suggestions.

  1. If it’s a “never, ever” you can use a stronger version here. “It’s not something we will be building in."

  2. We're not saying “no” to you, we’re saying “yes” to as many people as we can at once.

  3. Only offer this when you have a genuinely useful option. If it’s too complex or not good enough, just leave it out.

Alternative options

  • If you have a public roadmap, link to it and share some of the upcoming improvements.

  • Sometimes, your customer would be better off with a different product, and you may help them by offering that option.

3. "I want a refund!"

When you can’t (or have decided not to) offer the customer a refund.

Recommended approach

Asking for a refund is often a sign that the customer feels like they haven’t gotten value from your product. If you can acknowledge and address that issue, the refund may become less important to them.

Your answer should

  • Be explicit and give a reason if possible.

  • Dig for the underlying cause.

  • Listen carefully.

Example response

Hi Li Wei,

I’m sorry to hear you’re not happy with our product. While I’m unable to offer a refund¹ (please see our terms and conditions here²), I can <offer a billing extension/store credit/other alternative>³.

As we arrange that, though, I would love to understand your situation better and see if there’s any other way we can help.

Could you give me a little more detail about what you needed to get done? It looks like <your best understanding of what they are trying to do, and where they got stuck>, is that right?

If you have a few moments to elaborate on that, I can talk to the team here, and we can give you our best advice.

  • Be upfront about your decision to avoid misunderstandings.

  • If you have a policy on refunds, link to it directly.

  • Give your support team a range of non-refund options if you can.

Alternative options

  1. For small refunds, the cost of discussing it with the customer may well exceed the funds saved. Perhaps you can just give the refund and invest in long term goodwill.

  2. Even when you can offer a refund, a refund request is an opportunity to understand your customer’s needs better. Let them know you are happy to refund, but then open up the conversation to understand why. Sometimes they won’t even want a refund at the end of the conversation.”

  3. A clearly written and accessible refund policy will make these conversations easier.

4. "Tweet me back."

When your customer is on a social channel, but you need to move them over to another channel to answer effectively.

Recommended approach

You should respect the customer's choice wherever you can, but if you need to move them, explain why and reassure them that you will resolve their question.

Your answer should

  • Smoothly transfer information.

  • Minimize the work of the customer.

  • Retain customer confidence.

Example response

@hannah Sorry for the trouble, let’s get this sorted out. We'll need to loop in our engineers¹, so I’ve started an email thread for you with all the relevant information² you’ve shared. It should be in your account email inbox now. I'll see you over there³!

  1. Explain why you need to have them switch channels.

  2. Reassure the customer that they won't have to repeat themselves.

  3. Keeping the same team member in the conversation builds confidence.

Alternative options

  • Whenever possible, take the question to completion in the same channel your customer began it in.

  • Explain the issue, and let your customer choose an alternate channel from the possible options.

  • In the case of legal restrictions, make it clear up front where you can and can't help people.

5. "Bring back the file export feature!"

A customer is upset that a feature or product has been removed.

Recommended approach

You know how it feels when you lose access to something you value, so make sure to express that empathy, but also give your customer context.

Your answer should

  • Empathize with the customer.

  • Give them context on why the change was made.

  • Present the hopeful future.

Example response

Hi Marcin,

Thanks for letting us know about your situation. I can understand that it’s frustrating to lose a feature that you’ve come to rely on like that. While it’s not something we plan to replace¹, I can give you a bit more detail about why we made the change and how it will hopefully benefit you in the long term.

The short answer is that this was a complex feature to maintain. It wasn’t being used by the majority of our customers, which meant we were spending a lot of development time and resources on something that wasn’t making our product better for most people.

By making the hard decision to drop it, we’ve been able to move those resources into new areas like <x> and <y>², and you’ll now see those improvements launched and available in your account much sooner than we otherwise could have achieved.

I realize that doesn’t solve your immediate issue, though. Some of our other customers have found that <alternative> is a good substitute for that functionality. If you’d like to share more detail on how you were using it, I’d be happy to give you my best advice.

  1. If it’s never going to happen, it's more kind to make that clear right away than leave them hoping for it.

  2. Instead of over-apologizing for the removal, focus on what benefits that removal allows for all customers.

Alternative options

  • If this is not a “set in stone” decision and could be rolled back, then be sure to not just record the feedback, but ask questions to understand the particular usage of each customer. The answer may not be rolling back, for example; it may be changing future plans to allow for other use cases.

6. "I need access to this account!"

A customer wants access to an account, but can’t (or won’t) pass security.

Recommended approach

Customer service teams are increasingly the target of social engineering attacks. Being secure while also providing service is a tricky line to walk.

Your answer should

  • Be clear about what is needed to give access.

  • Position your team as a protector, not a blocker.

  • Rely on published policies.

Example response

Hello Rafi,

I understand you just want to get into your account and back to work, and I am here to help you. However, as I’m sure you can understand, we have to be careful to protect the details that you and all of our customers trust us to store¹. You can read up on our security policy and practices here: <url>.

Here’s what you can do to regain access to your account:

<reiterate your steps in bulleted list>

If any of those steps are unclear, let me know, and I’m happy to explain further. I know it’s stressful, but for the protection of all of our customers (and to comply with information security laws²) I’m unable to give you access otherwise.

Thank you for your understanding.

  1. Align yourself and your customer against outside people who might try to access their data.

  2. Mentioning legal constraints (if any) can be helpful, and most people will more easily accept that reason.

Alternative options

  • Security isn’t really an area for workarounds, but you can reduce some of the stress by having public policies and directions on how to regain account access (and what happens if they can’t).

7. "Your plugin is failing!"

A customer needs support for a third-party tool or system about which you can’t answer detailed questions.

Recommended approach

Customers don’t always know the right person to contact when they run into issues. Make the process as smooth as possible for them, even if you have to send them elsewhere.

Your answer should

  • Tell them why you are sending them away.

  • Make it easy for them to take the necessary steps.

  • Be clear that you’re still there to support them.

Example response

Hey Priya,

I’d love to help you with this, but I’m afraid we don’t have access to that information on our side¹. I can help you with questions relating to <our product>, but in this case, the <other system> support team will be best positioned to investigate and help you move forward.

To save you some time, I’ve looked up their support options, and you can send your question in here: <contact link>.

It may be helpful to include this information in your request²: <your clearer explanation of the issue>.

If their team needs any further information from our side, just let us know, and we can pass that on. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help directly, but thanks again for using <our service>, and best of luck getting this issue resolved quickly.

  1. Add some details about why you are unable to help them out.

  2. Improve their chances of success by helping them write a clear support question to the third-party team.

Alternative options

  • If your team has developed some skills in the third-party system, consider creating your own knowledge base entries for the most common issues.

  • For really high value relationships, consider submitting a question to the third party yourself, looping the customer in so you can monitor their experience and jump in if necessary.

  • If you have a software product, try to make it easier for customers to identify third-party issues by writing clearer error messages.

8. "I can’t believe it still hasn’t arrived!"

You’ve told the customer what will happen, but they’re angry about waiting after two days (for example).

Recommended approach

From your side, everything is working exactly as it should, yet the customer is still upset. Try to reframe it in your head as a customer who is so keen for your product that the wait is upsetting them, instead of a customer who is unreasonably angry about reality! Then be empathetic and take the customer’s side, even when nothing can be changed.

Your answer should

  • Avoid being pointlessly defensive.

  • Align yourself with the customer.

  • Give them a chance to feel heard, not blamed.

  • Avoid accepting blame incorrectly.

Example response

Hi Iminathi,

I can totally appreciate how frustrating it is to be waiting for your delivery¹. I wish there were a way for us to get it to you sooner (when will those Star Trek transports be invented). It might help to start with some background on what happens² on our end once you place an order.

When you ordered, the shipping process started on that same day automatically. Your package was picked up from our warehouse on <date>, and it’s now with <shipping company>, so it is well on the way to you. You should receive delivery on <date>, according to their last update.

To help you know what to expect, during the ordering process we show an estimated delivery date; perhaps that wasn't visible enough for you³? I’d love your feedback on that so we can improve for the future. In this case, it looks like we’re going to beat that estimate by about three days.

Once your parcel arrives, if there are any issues at all⁴, please hit reply and we can get right back to you.

  1. Just naming this will help them feel acknowledged — the customer wants the goods, you want them to have the goods.

  2. Offering them some more detail into what happens can help them understand the time taken and build their confidence that this is all normal.

  3. This paragraph points out that you did try to let them know, but in a way that leaves the customer an opportunity to give you feedback and not feel like you’re blaming them for not seeing it. Consider including a screenshot for clarity.

  4. Reinforce that they will be receiving it soon, and that you’re still there to help.

Alternative options

  • If you see a genuine issue with the information provided up front being unclear, tell the customer what you’re going to do about it to help future purchasers.

  • Offer to contact the delivery provider and pass on more detail about how the delivery process works.

9. "I'm not doing your job for you."

Your customer has a tricky problem, but they refuse to provide you with the troubleshooting information you need to help them.

Recommended approach

A customer who is not experienced in technical troubleshooting may not have an understanding of the iterative, trial-and-error approach that can sometimes be required. You need to be a little more explicit about what the process will be and why it’s worth their time to help you help them.

Your answer should

  • Avoid making ultimatums.

  • Convince the customer you need their help.

  • Be explicit about what you need.

  • Show them a positive outcome is coming.

Example response

Hi Joao,

I can understand that it is frustrating to contact us about a problem and have me ask you to do some work¹! I’d be frustrated too in your position. It’s true that I really do need your help to figure this out, but I should have explained earlier how I’ll use the information I asked for to get this problem sorted as quickly as possible.

Once you send me the following²: <required information>, my next step will be to replicate that same setup on our side³. Then, I’ll be able to tell if it’s something broken on our side and work with our developers on it. If not, then it’s possible there’s something specific to your setup that we will need to dig into together.

Narrowing the problem down in that way will make it much faster for our team here to help you because we won’t have to waste your time⁴ while we’re testing systems that don’t apply to your case.

I’ve set a notice on this conversation so that once you reply, it will come right back to me and I can keep this moving for you. I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks again for your help.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes — in your head, you’re already thinking of what you’ll test next and how you’ll move closer to an answer. They don’t know that yet.

  2. Reiterate in detail what you need your customer to provide you with, and link them to resources for how to get it if necessary.

  3. Adapt this section for the specific situation — technical troubleshooting, identifying their account, whatever applies.

  4. Flip their concern to show how you are valuing their time by reducing wasted effort (and gently remind them that the ball is in their court).

Alternative options

  • If you’ve tried and failed to elicit their help, at least be clear that you are ready and willing to help as soon as the information has been provided.

  • Tell a story about another customer who faced a similarly tricky issue, and who worked with you to get it resolved.

10. "I need a discount!"

When a customer does not want to pay the stated price.

Recommended approach

While your price may be non-negotiable, you can still demonstrate value and help your customers get more for their money.

Your answer should

  • Remain firm on the price.

  • Help the customer understand the value.

  • Offer useful options.

Example response

Hi Arjun,

We really appreciate your business with us! While we don't offer discounts, I do want to make sure you're getting the most you can for your money¹. You mentioned that <competitor> is cheaper², but there are a couple of key differences you might not know about.

<Explore key differentiators>

I’ve just had a look at your account, and one thing I noticed is that you're not using <feature> right now. A lot of our customers find that is a really useful tool³ for them to achieve <a common goal>. That makes our product really cost effective for them. Check out this case study from <customer>⁴ for example: <URL>.

Of course, I can understand that you may have an immediate need to reduce your ongoing costs. If that’s the case then I have a couple of options for you⁵:

  • If you move to an annual plan, you’ll save 20% instantly, which works out to <$X> in your case. You can do that here: <URL>.

  • You could move down to our basic plan and save <$Y>, though you would lose access to <features> that I can see you’re frequently using.

If we can help you understand these options better, or if you’d like help getting more out of your account, hit reply and let us know! We’re here to help whenever you need it.

  1. Avoid being apologetic about what you charge, be clear and then focus on value.

  2. If you are informed about your competition, you can be genuinely helpful in making comparisons.

  3. Do the work to help this specific customer get more out of your service.

  4. Use social proof to demonstrate the product is worth the cost.

  5. Offer any cost-reduction options you have, and be honest about their benefits and costs.

Alternative options

  • Perhaps there are discounts you can offer (e.g., to non-profits or startups) that the customer doesn't know about.

  • Examine the customer's usage of your product or service — perhaps they better suit a different plan.

  • Instead of reducing the base price, consider offering a discount on an upgrade or contract extension.

11. "Your shipping costs are ridiculous!"

A person wants to buy from you but is upset about the additional cost of shipping.

Recommended approach

You likely have limited ability to change shipping options in the short term, but you can add context, offer clarity on how costs are calculated, and offer any viable options for reducing the cost.

Your answer should

  • Empathize with the buyer.

  • Ensure they are getting the best deal available.

  • Share helpful context.

  • Offer alternative options.

Example response

Hi Harper,

Thanks so much for considering buying from us! You’re right, shipping does add a significant cost in your case¹. The additional price you see is the same amount we’re quoted by the delivery company we use. That total is based on the size of the items in your order and your address².

I do realize some larger companies are able to absorb or reduce some of those costs, and other companies inflate the item cost in order to reduce the apparent shipping cost. At <company> we prefer to be transparent about the real costs involved, and every customer gets the best deal we can offer³.

We’re always looking for cheaper ways to ship while making sure items arrive on time and undamaged. If we can ever find a better price for shipping to your location, we certainly will. In the meantime, I can suggest a couple of options that might help⁴.

If you order three or more <products> at once, that larger package allows us to use a combined shipping option that would work out to <$X> per <product> (saving you <$Y> vs three separate purchases).

Or if you can wait for our spring sale, the <product> you are after will be discounted by <X%>, and that might make the shipping worthwhile for you. I hope you can find an option that works for you, and if you have any other comments or questions, just let me know.

  1. Acknowledge the truth of their complaint, rather than minimizing it.

  2. Explain how the costs are calculated and what factors into them.

  3. Pre-empt the argument that other companies offer “cheaper” options.

  4. Share alternative ways to reduce the overall cost.

Alternative options

  • People often just don’t understand the true cost of shipping. Share links to third-party shipping calculators to confirm you are not making extra profit on shipping.

  • Suggest a provider of similar goods that is located close to the customer and can offer lower transport costs.

12. "You’re just not understanding me."

When a customer and the person helping them are failing to communicate effectively, so no progress is being made.

Recommended approach

When a conversation with a customer is just not getting anywhere, it can be frustrating for everyone involved. Deliberately swapping out the customer service professional for another colleague can break the pattern and create momentum toward a successful resolution.

Your answer should

  • Acknowledge the reality of the situation.

  • Set up your colleague for success.

  • Be followed by an internal note.

Example response

Hi Oksana,

Thanks for your response. It feels like we’re a little bit stuck here, and that must be frustrating for you¹.

To help get us back on track, I’m going to bring in my colleague, Shaun, and ask him to review our conversation so far² and make some suggestions.

 Shaun has plenty of experience in this area, and with his fresh perspective I’m confident we can get this resolved for you³.

I’ll make sure Shaun is up to speed, and then you should hear from him in the next hour or so⁴.

Thanks again for working with me,


  1. Acknowledging that things have been frustrating helps put you and the customer on the same side against the problem.

  2. Let them know that your colleague will do the work to understand the context, so the customer doesn’t feel like they are going back to the beginning.

  3. Reinforce confidence that progress can be made if they can be patient for a little longer.

  4. Where possible, set an accurate expectation for the next response time, again to build confidence and reduce stress.

Alternative options

  • In addition to making the handover directly to your customer, leave a good internal note to give your incoming colleague all the relevant details. See Support Tactic: Fresh Eyes, Fresh Voice for more advice on how to make a smooth transition.

  • In some situations, where customers are used to different team members jumping in on individual conversations, you may be able to slot your colleague in with just the private note for handover.

13. "Your bug will not be fixed"

A customer has reported a relatively rare and low-impact bug to you, which your team has replicated and added to their backlog. However, it is now clear that the bug will not be fixed in the foreseeable future, and you want to let your customer know about that decision.

Recommended approach

Nobody likes to hear that a bug will not be fixed, especially when they have gone to the trouble of reporting it to you. However, giving them an honest update is good service, and an investment in building a long term, trust-based relationship with that customer.

Your answer should

  • Remind them of the earlier conversation.

  • Thank them for their effort and custom.

  • Explain that the bug will not be fixed.

  • Elaborate on how that decision was made.

  • Offer any applicable workarounds or alternatives.

Example response

Hello Teodor,

Artur here from <company and team name>. Back in <date> you helpfully reported a bug in <product name>. Here are the details as a reminder¹:

<Add link to bug or short summary>

Today I have an update for you on that bug. Unfortunately we won’t be able to get it fixed and we’ll be closing your report². We really appreciate your time and effort in reporting it, and I realize this is not great news, but we prefer to be honest and respect your time, rather than leave you waiting forever. 

Our engineers have been able to replicate the bug, and they were hopeful of being able to fix it for you. However they always need to prioritize the bugs that affect the most customers, and those that have more severe impacts.

After a recent review and prioritization of their workload, your particular bug was removed from their list. We’re sorry we couldn’t fix it for you, and I’ve included below our current advice on working around the issue³.

<add any potential workarounds or alternatives to avoid the bug here>

We really appreciate your business and your help in improving our products, and if you do have any further comments or questions, please do get in touch⁴.

Alternative options

  • In some cases, e.g. browser-specific issues, they may have already solved their own problem by upgrading. It’s worth checking first.

  • If it is a truly minor bug, and they have not been in touch since, you might choose just not to notify them rather than potentially creating a bigger issue with this news.

  • Consider reviewing their account to see if you can identify other ways they could get more use from your software, to make the conversation more valuable for them.

Use these templates to craft your own great responses

There is no single “best” answer in customer service, so don’t treat our example answers as scripts — or even as finished saved replies. Instead, use them as a foundation that you can adapt to your situation, in your own voice and tone.

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