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:
- How to draft a successful apology letter
- Examples of apology letters for every occasion
- The benefits of sending them to upset customers
If it’s not what you’re after, try these articles:
- How to Improve Customer Service With Chatbots?
- How to Ensure Customer Success?
- Customer Service Scenarios
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?
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
- 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.
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:
|Dear [customer name], |
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced due to [issue]. At [company name], customer satisfaction is something we take very seriously and anything less than ensuring you are completely happy is unacceptable…
Followed by reasons for the mess up, a list of implemented changes, and an offer to appease the customer.
Do you like the sound of it?
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.
An apology from [your business name]
Formal apology letter template:
|Dear [customer name],|
On behalf of [company name], I sincerely apologize for [describe the problem & insert time period].
[Explain the source of the incident], which is unacceptable. As a result, [explain how it affected the customer].
We understand you depended on us [briefly repeat the customer goal, e.g., to protect your data] and deeply regret we failed to deliver the high standard that you’ve come to expect from [name of your company].
We are taking this incident seriously. Once it was discovered, we took appropriate measures to ensure it will not happen again in the future. [Explain what measures were taken or you’re planning to take.]
I appreciate your patience with us as we further investigate this issue. I’m confident your next experience with us will be up to your expectations.
If you would like to discuss the issue further, our customer support team is here for you. Do not hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can make things right.
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.
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.
At [your business name], we owe you an apology
Apology letter template:
|Hi [customer name],|
Thanks for contacting us about [name the product, service, or experience].
We’re sorry about the mishap that caused [describe how the customer was affected].
It wasn’t our intention to disappoint you. But we feel fully responsible for what happened and for any inconvenience, this may have caused you.
After we looked into the situation, we found the oversight resulted from [enter the cause of the error]. We regret that this error slipped past our quality processes. We’ve taken steps to prevent it from happening again by [enter the steps taken, e.g., by passing customer’s feedback to a relevant department].
As a token of our apology, [enter what you can offer to the customer to appease them, e.g., full refund or a discount].
If you have other concerns or additional feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer service team. [You may provide contact details here.]
[your or your company name]
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.
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.
We’re so sorry we lost our cool
Business apology letter template:
|Dear [customer name],|
We were so sorry to hear about the negative experience you had with one of our customer service agents. Please accept our sincerest apologies for the stress and frustration this has caused you.
We want you to know our customer service team is regularly trained on how to interact with customers. However, this experience has brought to our attention that the training program needs to be updated. We hope to avoid similar incidents in the future, which is why we’ll be sending our entire customer service team for refresher training.
We want to offer you a [enter your offer] to make it up to you. We hope this experience doesn’t affect our relationship with you and that you come back again soon!
If there’s anything else we can do, please get in touch [enter how to contact you].
[you or your company name]
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.
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.
We’re so sorry for the delay
Apology email template:
|Dear [customer’s name],|
We’re so sorry that you won’t be able to receive your delivery on time. A mix-up in our warehouse caused your package to be sent later than it was meant to.
It was completely our fault, and we regret letting you down on this occasion. Let me assure you that this incident will not happen again [insert what you’ve done to prevent it].
Please expect the delivery anytime soon. [or insert the exact number or business days]
We hope you’ll give us a second chance to win back your trust. Please accept this voucher which you can use for your next purchase with us.
[your or your company name]
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.
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.
Apology for [refer to the complaint]
Apology email template:
|Hi [customer name],|
We are truly sorry for the inconvenience you experienced on [insert date here] when [refer to the complaint here]. While accidents like this shouldn’t happen, we take full responsibility for the situation.
We’ve reviewed the situation and narrowed the cause to [fully explain the reason here, e.g., key staff changes, recent internal system update, etc.].
We value your business and hope we will never put you in this situation. Therefore, we plan to improve [enter measures taken].
If you still have further questions about the incident, please do not hesitate to reach out. We’d be happy to talk through them with you.
[your or company’s name]
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.
Oops, we’re sorry!
Sorry letter template:
It appears you got [choose: an email, a wrong discount code, an invalid offer] by mistake.
It’s our bad. We’ve had some technical issues, but our crack technical team is on the case.
Please disregard our previous message. We should have included [the code or offer] below.
We feel terrible about this mistake, so please accept our sincerest apologies and an extra incentive valid until [enter the time & date].
Thanks for sticking with us!
[your or your company’s name]
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.
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.
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—
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.
Quickly is a good rule of thumb.
So don’t waste time and use the templates to win back your customers’ love.
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.