Customer support ingredients, vol. 4: brand personality in the face of complaints

This is one of Sabine’s favourite complaint email examples of all times.

It all started when two kittens moved in with her. They needed special kitten food, so she scanned the market. And found a fun new brand with a wonderfully wacky website to introduce the team, including their own cats and dogs. Smitten with this approach, she bought two types of food. The kittens were delighted with the one, but they stopped eating when she gave them the other.

So Sabine wrote to let the team know — and included a photo of the kitties too:

Black kitten Mungojerrie on the left, cuddled by grey tabby kitten Rumpleteazer on the right

Fed up with their food: Mungo and Teazer

Dear Peter, Paul and Mary!

I’m writing on behalf of my owners: Tabby Rumpleteazer and black kitten Mungojerrie. They’ve been eating your food since they moved in with us 4 weeks ago, and they go absolutely crazy for the chicken flavour. However, I must say that they complain quite a lot about the salmon version. At first I thought they may get used to fish food, but there’s really no improvement at all! It’s completely untouched when I come home at the end of the day.

I’ve tried mixing the two, which makes it a little better, but in the interest of other kittens I thought I’d let you know.

Happy World Cat Day from

Sabine, Mungo and Teazer

It’s a friendly complaint: the kind of feedback that can help improve the product and reach more customers. Clever companies cherish and invite it, and they use it to plan their business activities.

Unfortunately, the reply was a virtual shrug:

Dear Sabine,

Many thanks for your email which I have passed to Peter, Paul and Mary.

Unfortunately in this business we have come to learn that not all cats and dogs, kittens and puppies like the same food. It sounds like it might be your kittens personal preference as they like the chicken flavour.

Many thanks

Carl Simons

OK. Doesn’t look like that food is ever going to change, and we’re stuck with a ¾-full bag. Happy World Cat Day? Not so sure.

Sabine had expected an email like this:

Dear Mungo and Teazer,

I’m really sorry that find our salmon food somewhat fishy. Thanks for letting us know!

I’ve asked Peter, Paul and Mary to check the recipe again. We want to make sure you and other kittens polish their plates and grow into strong, happy cats.

We had a great World Cat Day — Felix got a new catnip mouse, and we had fun playing all afternoon. How about you?

Your friend Carl

Sabine comes back to this example in almost all her customer care training workshops — to teach:

4-and-a-half tips to let your brand shine through

1. If your website is wacky, don’t make customer service a serious business.

People crave consistency in their brand experience. If your website has cartoons and cat TV, then it’s that attitude people buy into. Don’t let them down by disconnecting experiences before the sale and after the sale.

1 ½ . If your customer’s complaint is wacky, don’t make your response a serious business.

Carl’s email doesn’t take up any of the cues Sabine gave – neither her writing from the point of view of the kittens nor their picture, not even her wishing of a happy World Cat Day. He even referred to “the business”. What a killjoy…

2. Be human; show you have a heart.

Empathy and an apology go a long way in adding a human touch.

3. If your product doesn’t keep its promise, at least say it matters to you.

Perhaps one of the strangest things about this response: there’s no affirmation that the company strives to deliver food cats love. Other brands even offer a money back guarantee on taste.

4. Consider mending a bad experience by sending free stuff that matters to your customer

If you sometimes give away freebies, a complimentary sample of your product is a great idea.

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