Customer Satisfaction
The Properly Written Problem Resolution Letter

Every business, no matter how well run, occasionally makes a misstep with a customer. How such mistakes are handled is critical to the reputation of the business. The customer will remember how a problem is resolved, and will be sure to tell his or her friends.

For the past year or so, I have been an unabashed fan of Starbucks Ice Cream. Impressed by their coffee, when I saw the ice cream in the store I snatched it up. This has turned out to be the only ice cream for which I would make a special trip to the grocery store.

After about 50 very positive experiences, I encountered a carton of JavaChip without any chips in it. This was especially surprising and disappointing, because it is almost impossible to take a spoonful of JavaChip that does not contain at least several large chips.

Being the customer service (and ice cream) freak that I am, I called them the next day. Within a few days, I received the following letter with a gift certificate for a carton of Starbucks Ice Cream attached.

Dear _______,

Thank you for your telephone call regarding your recent purchase of Starbucks JavaChip Ice Cream. We are sorry to hear that the ice cream lacked the quality you have come to expect from Starbucks.

During our manufacturing process, added ingredients are mixed into the ice cream using a special feeder. In the case of your carton, it appears that we were the victim of human or mechanical error, in that the feeder failed to add the appropriate quantity of chocolate pieces to the mix. Please be assured that we have reported this incident to our quality assurance department and that they are implementing measures to ensure that this situation does not recur. We are sorry that you were unable to enjoy your ice cream as a result.

Please accept the enclosed gift certificate for one quart of Starbucks Ice Cream to replace your purchase. We hope that you will give us another chance to provide you with the quality ice cream you deserve and that all your future encounters with Starbucks Ice Cream bring you nothing but pleasure.

Warm regards,

STARBUCKS ICE CREAM PARTNERSHIP

JILL SHOEMAKER General Manager

Enclosure: Certificate - One Quart

This Starbucks response could serve as a fine template for anyone in need of a problem resolution letter. Note what they did.

  1. They thanked me for contacting them. Rather than evading the issue, they addressed the issue head-on.
  2. They apologized (twice).
  3. They offered an explanation. An excuse was not necessary, but it was important to me to know that this problem was an exception to their normal practice.
  4. They assured me that the problem was in the process of being resolved, and that I could count on them in the future.
  5. They offered restitution in the form of a gift certificate to replace the original purchase.

Did it work? Well, I've purchased a dozen or so quarts of Starbucks Ice Cream since I received the letter, and I've told others, including you, about the experience.

If you have a problem with a customer, I highly recommend the Starbucks approach. I also recommend the ice cream.

Clive Mettrick