Apologizing isn't just a life skill, it's an essential professional one as well. We all make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes happen when we're at work. While it's difficult to own up to doing something wrong, as a business owner it's important to acknowledge when you or your company makes a mistake. Any of your business relationships may at some point depend on your ability to say, honestly and sincerely, "I'm sorry."
If you need to make an apology and make amends, we've got the tips and templates to help you do it right.
5 Tips for Writing a Business Apology Letter
While face to face is the best way to tell someone you're sorry, in today's business world, where your customer base can be spread across the state, the country, and even the world, an in-person apology just isn't always possible.
If this kind of conversation makes you nervous, it might be a relief to write a quick business apology letter or fire off an "I'm sorry, my bad" email instead. But don't rest on your laurels. Not being able to talk to someone in person puts more weight on your apology email being able to express your feelings in a way that gets through to your customers.
Follow these tips to make sure your apology email gets the job done right.
Say You're Sorry as Soon as Possible — and Mean It
The most important part of an apology email is sounding like you mean it. Part of being sincere and authentic when apologizing is sounding like you. Use your voice, your brand's tone. A hollow or forced apology email will fall flat.
You also need to say you're sorry as soon as you realize you need to make an apology. Even if you don't yet have a firm plan in place to resolve the situation, acknowledging that the situation exists is key. The longer you wait, the more you convey a lack of investment in your customers' experience of your company.
If resolution of the situation is ongoing, make sure your customer service or customer support team knows to send follow-ups to your initial apology email.
Understand Exactly What You're Apologizing for
Add weight to your personal apology by putting yourself in your customer's shoes. Exactly what emotions could your mistake have caused, what disruption might it have brought to a customer's day? A delay in delivering your product isn't really what you need to say you're sorry for. It's the birthday present that didn't arrive on time or the piece of jewelry someone didn't get to wear on their anniversary date. What you're really apologizing for is the stress, confusion, and frustration this negative experience has caused them. Being able to name those things is crucial to a well-delivered apology.
Explain What Happened
While someone's poor customer service experience doesn't require an explanation, a delayed order, interruption of service, or any other issue might. Think about what questions your customer might have about what happened and give them that information. Don't leave them wondering. And avoid jargon and overly technical terms when you're explaining yourself. Keep each customer apology letter simple and easy to understand.
Explain What You're Going to Do About It
Show that you value customer experience and trust by letting them know what you intend to change, replace, or review to keep this mistake from happening again. If the pain point was a single employee, note if that employee is receiving disciplinary action, undergoing retraining, or if they've been let go from your company. An apology without change in the future is just lip service and upset customers will note that.
Another good practice to put into place is offering some sort of consolation, like a discount on their next purchase, full refund, or replacement. It won't make up for your mistake entirely, but it can help soften any hard feelings.
Keep It Short
The best apologies are honest, to the point, and short. The longer you drone on about how very sorry you are, how terrible you feel, etc, the less sincere you sound. And the more of your customers' time you waste. Your business apology email doesn't need to scroll on and on. Be clear, concise, and then close.
Email Templates for Your Next Apology Email
The best apologies all have the basic parts listed above: say you're sorry, accept responsibility, and explain what you're doing to improve. Convey these core elements in a way that sounds honest, and like you, and your apology will be perfectly acceptable.
Of course, it's hard to find the right words when you need to apologize. The apology letter templates below are for a few different situations you may face, and you can change them as needed. Think of these templates as starting blocks to get you going when you're not sure how or what to say.
To an Individual Customer
Subject line: My apologies for [specific situation]
Dear [customer name]
I want to personally apologize for [situation or problem]. I've worked hard to build a company that provides excellent service to every customer, and I take our failure to do so personally. Our mistake [say what it cost or how it affected your customer]. I'm sorry.
This failure resulted from [root cause or causes of this issue], and we are actively working to resolve this issue by [name the actions you're taking].
Please accept a [discount, free replacement, or other offer] as an additional apology. I know it doesn't make up for what happened, but I hope it goes some way toward restoring your goodwill toward my company.
Feel free to reach out if you'd like to discuss this situation further, or if you have any questions. My contact information is below.
Thank you –
To All Your Customers (Mass Apology)
Subject line: Our mistake
Hello [customer name],
As many of you are no doubt aware, we [name the mistake]. We are so sorry for any inconvenience or annoyance this may have caused you. We're working to improve our [specific systems or practices] so something like this never happens again.
To show how sorry we are, we'd like to offer [explain your offer]. This doesn't make up for our mistake, of course, but we hope you enjoy it.
[your name/company name]
For a Defective Product
Subject line: We're sorry about [name defective product]
Hi [customer name],
I want to apologize for the issue with [your product]. I know how frustrating it can be to have to deal with something like this, and I'm sorry this was the case with one of our products.
Now that we're aware of the problem, we are notifying everyone who placed an order with us about the issue. We will be sending out a free new [product] within [time frame]. Please accept a full reimbursement of your purchase price, as well as a [discount] off your next order, to further apologize for the time and frustration this has no doubt cost you.
Thank you for your continued support of our business while we resolve this issue.
For Technical Difficulties, Service Delays, Service Outage
Subject line: Service interruption/technical glitch
Dear [customer name],
On [date, time] there was an interruption of our service due to [explain the glitch or other problem].
We'd like to apologize for any inconvenience and accept full responsibility for this issue. We are currently undergoing [repairs or updates, or other steps to resolve the issue], so something like this won't happen again.
Thank you for your patience, and your continued support.
For Poor Customer Service or a Customer Complaint
Subject line: We're sorry we gave you such poor service
Dear [customer name],
My sincerest apologies for what happened [where, when]. A poor customer experience is not typical of my business, and I'm very disappointed that you had such a bad experience. There is simply no excuse for such bad service.
I want [company name] to remain a business that you trust and can rely on, and I am personally overseeing the disciplinary actions against, and retraining of, the employee involved.
I'd like to offer you [discount, reimbursement, etc.] as a further apology. Please don't hesitate to reach out with questions or additional concerns.
Why Apologizing Matters
Your business runs on trust. More than sales, more than likes, follows, or shares on social media. It's trust that keeps customers coming back, and trust that makes them recommend your business to their friends. And while mistakes are inevitable, how you handle mistakes makes or breaks your reputation and the trust that it inspires.
Businesses that cannot remember the importance of the perception of their brand risk stumbling and not recovering. A poorly delivered apology is just as bad as or worse than no apology. Miss the mark on just why a customer is upset and you exacerbate a situation that could have been resolved much more quickly. The key to offering a sincere apology is to show you understand exactly why your apology matters to your customers. That's how you repair trust in your brand, and your business.
Add Our Sample Apology Letter Templates to Your Business Owner's Toolbox
Saying you're sorry isn't easy, but then again, it isn't supposed to be. Done right, a proper letter of apology to a valued customer should express exactly what you find frustrating, upsetting, or disappointing about this situation, and that you understand the reasons your customers may experience those same emotions. A well-written apology letter will make each customer feel seen and heard, and go a long way toward establishing customer loyalty, improving overall customer satisfaction, and building or rebuilding trust in your company name.
Apology letter email templates are valuable tools in your business owner's customer service toolbox. Just as you use Skynova's business accounting software and templates to keep your business organized and running smoothly, so apology templates will make it easier for you, or your customer service team, to say you're sorry when you make a mistake. Hoping you'll never have to make an apology won't prepare you for when you do — because you're going to have to apologize for something. We all make mistakes, and every business owner will have to deal with a sticky situation, eventually.
Skynova is here to help you through every aspect of running your own business. Small business owners wear a lot of hats, and our articles, templates, and software are here as resources for every role you play. From invoices to taxes, from how to start your company to how to apologize when your company makes a mistake, Skynova has what you need to help you get the job done.
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Notice to the Reader
The content within this article is a general guide and may not apply to your specific situation. Some mistakes may have legal ramifications. Always consult with a legal professional to ensure you're complying with your industry's best practice standards.