Business Growth

6 Apology Letters to Customers [Examples + Writing Tips]

Monika Kisielewska · Updated
Apology letter cover image

Have you sent a wrong order and the customer’s angry? Or maybe the service wasn’t good enough, and you fear you might lose a client?

I’ve been there.

There’s no magic way to go back in time. But you can send an apology letter to customers and salvage the relationship. 

That’s what I’ve done.

And the customers were surprisingly understanding. Saying things like “It’s okay,” “Thanks for the heads-up,” or “Happens to the best.”

So why don’t you try it too?

Read this article to find out:

If it’s not what you’re after, try these articles:

How to write apology letters to customers?

The short answer is: in the same way, you would apologize to a partner. And you can totally do it, right?

Right?

Okay, never mind. Here are a couple of points that will make saying sorry like you really mean it. 

Even if you don’t.

Here’s what you do— 

  • Clearly admit the mistake
  • Briefly explain what happened
  • Express regret
  • Repair the wrongdoing
  • Ask the customer for the feedback
  • Follow up if necessary

Don’t— 

  • Be vague about what happened
  • Make excuses and blame the customer 
  • Make the customer wait for the resolution

Let’s take a deep dive into the complex art of apologizing.

1. Admit the mistake

Take your ego out of the equation and accept you’re at fault. Acknowledge that it was you who screwed up the order or failed to respond to a complaint “in a timely manner.” Do it in a way that makes it clear who the offender is (you, the company) and who is the offended (the customer). 

The trick is to take full ownership of the mistake. If you say things like “Sorry, but…,” or “Sorry, if you felt…”—you may as well kiss your customers goodbye. It sounds dismissive and can cause another negative backlash.

Use live chat to say sorry to your customers

Hear from customers in real-time. Apologize for any mistakes then and there.

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2. Explain what happened (not an excuse)

It’s a chance to prove you understand what really went wrong, and your regret isn’t superficial. So look at it from the customer’s perspective and consider what decisions and actions led to the error.

An effective explanation shows that the mistake was neither intentional nor personal and is unlikely to recur. It can be brief, but it’s supposed to rebuild trust, so keep it transparent.

3. Express regret

Your mistakes affect your customers, and you have to recognize that. Customers want to know that you understand why they’re upset and how your error prevented them from accomplishing their goals.

So be humble and show empathy when you apologize to a customer. It compels people to move forward and, in fact, can strengthen the bond between you and the customers. 

4. Repair the wrongdoing

After you realize what went wrong, it’s time to show that you drew conclusions of the incident and put measures in place to avoid it in the future. It’s to show the customer that despite the negative experience, you can continue the relationship.

At this point, you can offer some reparation. It can be monetary compensation, such as a discount or reimbursement, or symbolic, thanking the customer for improving company processes. 

5. Ask the customer for feedback

When you send a professional apology letter to customers, it’s a good idea to include feedback options. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

On the one hand, it shows that you care about how the customer feels and make sure the customer service team hears their voice. On the other hand, it directs their dissatisfaction into internal feedback channels instead of social media.

6. Follow up when necessary

Depending on the situation, you may consider sending a follow-up email to make sure the customer is satisfied with the apology. You can address the changes you made since the original incident that prevent it from happening again.

You can get straight to writing apology emails to customers. Or try those tips at home first.

Example of apology letter for (nearly) every occasion

The standard apology email goes like this:

And, send!

Do you like the sound of it?

I don’t— 

So I drafted six adaptable business apology letter templates. While doing so I took on a customer-oriented approach and followed the simple rules about apologizing.

Feel free to copy-paste the text and reuse it. 

Just don’t forget to insert your company’s details!

Mass apology letter to customers

You can use this apology email template when the error affects many of your customers at the same time, such as a software error, an outage, or data privacy breach. A company apology letter for mistakes like this should be signed by a senior manager or even CEO, depending on the problem’s weight. 

Subject line:

An apology from [your business name]

Formal apology letter template:

Are you wondering what a real-life mass apology looks like?

Here’s a sample apology for a mistake with envelopes at the Oscar awards ceremony. It clearly explains what happened. 

Statement from PriceWaterHouseCoopers

Apology letter to a unsatisfied customer

You can send this apology email to a customer who, for some reason, is unhappy. Use it for relatively minor errors, like a glitch in your service, defective product, or general experience with your brand. Otherwise, it may sound a bit insensitive.

Subject line:

At [your business name], we owe you an apology

Apology letter template:

Don’t overthink it. It can really happen to anyone. 

Even the former president Barack Obama had to send a personal apology note. It was to Professor Ann Collins Johns who wasn’t pleased about, as he put it, his “glib remarks” about art historians.

The White House apology letter

Apology letter to customer for bad service

How to apologize professionally in an email when your employee had a bad day and snapped at the customer? Whether the customer is overreacting or not, here’s your apology letter for being disrespectful.

Subject line:

We’re so sorry we lost our cool

Business apology letter template:

Here’s an example of the perfect apology letter to customers for poor service issued by the CEO of JetBlue. He sent it after a thousand passengers were stranded on the tarmac for 10 hours in bad weather. 

It’s lengthy but worth the read.

Formal apology letter example

I don’t know about you, but I’m buying into this apology.

In the follow-up video “Our Promise to You,” Neeleman again accepted responsibility for the crisis and outlined steps the company took to ensure a crisis of this magnitude would not be repeated.

Apology letter to customer for delay

This type of email is best sent as soon as you realize the shipment won’t arrive on time. Sometimes you can anticipate it because the weather is bad or there was an error with your supplier. Send it post factum too, to show customers it was incidental. 

Subject line:

We’re so sorry for the delay

Apology email template:

Here’s a sample apology letter to customers for late delivery around the Christmas period (which is extra sensitive) signed by the company’s president. This should appeal to all types of customers, even the most disgruntled.

KOHL's apology letter

Apology letter for customer complaint

No matter which business you’re in, you’ll eventually have to deal with customer complaints. Even if it’s a small roadblock on your customer’s journey, your customer service will have to respond to that. 

Subject line:

Apology for [refer to the complaint]

Apology email template:

Sometimes, you’ll have to apologize to customers on the phone. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered—check out the customer service scenarios to avoid being caught off guard.

Apology letter to customer for error in company communication

You can use this type of email to get over a marketing blip. It’s best sent quickly after the wrong one.

In this case, you can use a bit of humor to defuse the tension. But make sure you still validate customer feelings to win back your customers’ love.

Subject line:

Oops, we’re sorry!

Sorry letter template:

Here’s an example of an apology letter after the Fab team sent customers an email with just a cat image. To recover, they included two cat puns and a 10% off coupon.

Fab apology email

On second thought, it almost looks too good to be accidental. Maybe both emails were sent out on purpose to delight customers as part of their inbound marketing strategy

After all, who doesn’t smile at a cute cat’s picture?

Why should you bother with sending a letter of apology to customers?

Some companies delay eating crow, fearing lawsuits or damaging their brand’s reputation.

They shouldn’t— 

Here’s what professors Maurice Schweitzer and Alison Wood Brooks have to say about organizational apology

Most apologies are low cost and many create substantial value. They can help defuse a tense situation and fears of litigation are often unfounded.

One study estimated that encouraging surgeons to apologize promptly and candidly for their mistakes, on average, reduced lawsuits payouts by $32,000.

Medical stats aside— 

The payoff from apologizing to customers is measured by customer satisfaction. When you appease angry customers, the lifetime value of the customer and customer retention rate increase

Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain—the rest churn. And once you lose them, 68% of them will never go back to your business. 

Unless—you reach out to them to address their issues in a professional apology letter.

When?

Quickly is a good rule of thumb.

So don’t waste time and use the templates to win back your customers’ love.

Key takeaways

Even though you don’t want to spoil the customer experience, mishaps are bound to happen. When the time comes, send an apology letter to clients to try to salvage business relationships.

  • When you do so, be sincere and respond quickly.
  • It’s best if you use customer apology email templates in this article or follow the guidelines.
  • Do it right the first time so that you don’t have to apologize again.
  • Whatever you do, don’t use excuses.
  • Don’t beat yourself up about a mistake after you’ve clicked send.

The best thing about saying sorry to customers is that it costs you nothing. Especially with a good reusable template.

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Monika Kisielewska

Monika is a Senior Content Writer interested in business, digital marketing, and eCommerce. She writes copy as it should be written—engaging and easy on the reader’s eye.

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