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Even when you’re a highly skilled customer support professional, 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? Enter: the Customer Service Question and Answer Library!

How to use the answer library

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.

”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 time.

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 help.

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

<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 you.

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

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

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

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.

”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 roadmap, we are working on big improvements that will be helpful for the majority of our customers, 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.</p>

*<your suggested workaround>*

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

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

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

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:

  • 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.

”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 refund (please see our terms and conditions here), I can *<offer a billing extension/store credit/other alternative>*

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:

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

”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 replace, 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>, 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.

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

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.

”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 store. 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 laws) I’m unable to give you access otherwise.

Thank you for your understanding.

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

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).

”Your plugin is failing, bigly!”

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 side. 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 request: <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.

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

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

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.

”I can’t believe it still hasn’t arrived!”

You’ve told the customer what will happen, but they’re angry about waiting after 2 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 delivery, 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 happens 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 Planet Express, 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 you? 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 3 days.

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

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

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

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 screenshotfor clarity.

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.

Your feedback

How would you respond in these situations? And what can we do to improve upon this library? Leave your questions and feedback in the comments!

Mathew Patterson

About the author: After running a support team for years, Mat Patterson joined the marketing team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk software. Learn how Help Scout takes the headache out of email support.