I received an email last week from a lovely reader by the name of Hollie (Hi, Hollie!).

Hollie is responsible for customer service and accounts payable at work, so she’s au fait with tricky calls and emails. But then Hollie was hit with a curve ball. Here’s what Hollie had to say:

Hi Rah
I’ve received a difficult email from a client advising that the reason they were late with their payment was due to their mother passing. Do you have any tips on how to best respond? I don’t know them personally and have little contact. I’ve surfed the net and nothing really stands out and I was wondering what your thoughts were and if you’ve come across this before?

This is a tricky one, isn’t it? What is the best way to respond to sensitive customer situations in a respectful way? It’s a fine line to walk. You don’t want to be too impersonal, too corporate or too flippant when dealing with sensitive personal matters like these.

So I had a think about it and sent the following text back to Hollie:

Dear xxx,

I’m sorry to hear your news. Thanks for confirming that the payment has been made now though. I have updated our records accordingly.

Condolences to you and your family at this difficult time.

Kind regards,
Hollie

I said to Hollie, though, that I wasn’t entirely happy with the last line. Condolences as a term was a bit too over the top for my liking, but I couldn’t think of something more appropriate.

Hollie got back to me with the perfect resolution:

Dear xxx,

I’m sorry to hear your news. Thanks for confirming that the payment has been made now though. I have updated our records accordingly.

Our thoughts are with you and your family at this difficult time.

Yours sincerely,
Hollie

Which is perfect. Hollie nailed it. When you’re reading it, do you agree? Not too casual, not too impersonal.

How do you handle tricky customer service at work? Do you have a question that you’d like answered? Hit me up, I’d be so happy to help :)

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