Courtesy of the discerning Clive Mettrick at Business Research Lab and a defective pint of JavaChip ice cream, Starbucks had the opportunity to rise to the occasion.  And it did – sending a dissatisfied customer an excellent problem resolution (‘apology’ in layman’s terms) letter that not only salvaged the relationship, but contributed to increased satisfaction and loyalty.

Based on Clive’s Starbucks correspondence, here are some key elements of an effective resolution communication:

1.  Thank the customer for contacting you, and apologize (Starbucks did so twice).

2.  Address the issue directly. (“We are sorry to hear that the ice cream lacked the quality you have come to expect from Starbucks.”)

3.  Offer an explanation. Clive points out that an excuse was not necessary, but it was important to him to know that this problem was an exception to their normal practice. (“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.”)

4.  Assure the customer that the problem will be resolved, and that they can count on you in the future (“Please be assured that we have reported this incident to our quality assurance department and that they are implementing measures to ensure this situation does not recur.”)

5.  If possible, offer some form of restitution, whether a voucher, refund, or other appropriate item or service. (“Please accept the enclosed gift certificate for one quart of Starbucks Ice Cream to replace your purchase.”)

6.  Close with an expression of appreciation for the customer, and (OPTIONAL) a hint of panache! (“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.”)