How to Write an Apology Letter | Apology Letter Template | Apology Letter Format


There is no company in the world that does the right thing every time.

Mistakes happen, things go wrong or miscommunication creates a less than ideal situation for your employees or your customers.

It's all part of being human.

However, we can't expect everything to be perfect all the time, but that doesn't mean your audience doesn't have high expectations of you as a brand. When something doesn't go according to plan, how you react is important.

Most people are capable of forgiving. However, most people also expect forgiveness. And they don't want to just hear the generic "We're so sorry." They expect an apology that makes sense.

So, what does a good apology letter look like? Keep reading to learn:
  • What exactly is an apology letter?
  • Art of Apology
  • How to Write and Share a Good Apology Letter in 5 Steps
  • 5 types of apology letters (with examples)
  • A template for writing an Apology Letter to a Client
How to Write an Apology Letter
How to Write an Apology Letter

What exactly is an apology letter?

An apology letter may seem pretty self-explanatory. This is a letter that asks for forgiveness.

But to your customers, the apology letter represents much more. Issuing an apology letter to your customers lets them know that you care about them, you're reaching out to them to fix your mistake, and you're making sure the mistake doesn't happen again.

Apology letters can take many different forms. This could be a message sent via email, call or video message, or a statement posted on a website. The length of the letter and how it is delivered to customers usually depends on the severity of the issue – but we'll discuss this a bit later.

The most important thing an apology letter should do is build a relationship with your client. It can be mass distributed, but when your customer reads it, it should feel personalized – as if it was written just for them.

Art of Apology

Asking for forgiveness is not always easy. They don't always come naturally, especially when one doesn't admit that he or she has done anything wrong.

This happens when we get half-baked apologies, like I'm sorry if your feelings were hurt or I'm sorry but you don't understand.

While these apologies may technically say you're sorry, they don't seem genuine. They may actually feel trivial or dismissive – which can push upset customers even further away. If you didn't get much negative feedback from your first mistake, a careless half-apology may attract even more negative attention.

Consider the Peloton ad released during the 2019 holiday season where a wife received a gift from her husband one of their trendy spin bikes. The ad was mocked for taking an already fit woman on a fitness journey.

But the real reaction came from Peloton's apology. Rather than acknowledge the issues raised by some viewers over the ad, a spokesperson for the company said they were "disappointed in how some people have misinterpreted the ad."

Needless to say, people weren't very happy with that apology. Instead of acknowledging where the company may have slipped up, it places the blame on them for not “getting it,” even if the brand itself doesn't feel like they did anything wrong.

So, what is the right way to apologize? Let's work through some steps.

How to Write and Share a Good Apology Letter in 5 Steps

Writing a good apology letter may take some practice, but here are five steps to follow to get you started.

1. Give yourself some time to collect your thoughts.

When a mistake occurs or a customer expresses their unhappiness, you can respond immediately. You may want to defend yourself or start apologizing profusely to set the record straight.

Although you certainly don't want to wait too long before issuing a response, you also don't want to respond too quickly. If you're feeling emotional, upset, or confused about what happened and why your customers aren't happy, you'll first want to take time to calm down, gather the facts, and figure out a solution.

Emotional reactions, especially those that are angry, can attract attention for all the wrong reasons. If you sound defensive in your response, you risk sounding like Peloton – as if you believe your customer is wrong for being upset.

Give yourself time to collect your thoughts, whether it's just a few minutes or an entire day. Still, prefer to respond immediately, but give yourself the necessary time to prepare a well-crafted response.

2. Look at the situation from the customer's perspective.

Remember when you were a child and you were asked how you would feel if someone did this to you? Putting yourself in the other person's shoes is a great exercise in empathy and can help strengthen your apology letter.

If you're only looking at the situation from your perspective, it can be difficult to really understand why your customer is upset. And because you're in a position of power, you probably know more about the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to the mistake, so you may be biased toward criticism.

Think about how you would feel if a brand you love treated you the same way. Whether you've run out of a tone-deaf ad or your customer service reps are unwilling to help solve a problem, put yourself in your customers' shoes for a moment.

How would you be feeling? What specific things will you care about? What will make the situation “right” again?

If it helps, make a list of all the points you would like to hear as a customer. You can then use this list when drafting your apology letter to make sure you don't leave anything out.

3. Share what went wrong—but don't make excuses.

There can be a fine line between explaining what went wrong and making excuses. While your customers probably want to know the chain of events that led to the mistake, they don't need to hear who is really at fault and why it's not really your fault.

You may not like sharing the actual details of what happened with your customers, but they will appreciate it if you do.

Keep your explanation brief and precise. Don't share more than necessary, but make sure you're sharing enough information so it doesn't seem like you're trying to hide something. At this stage, you want to remake entrust with your crowd, so attempt to be basically as straightforward as could be expected.

4. Present a solution.

Your customers want to know that you've heard their complaints, you understand where they're coming from, and you're working to resolve the problem.

If your mistake costs your customers money or time, offer to reimburse them or provide a discount on their next purchase. Even if you are unable to give them their time back, you can still make a good-faith effort to compensate them for the time they wasted.

Try your best to amend. If the mistake resulted in a bigger issue, let your audience know what you're doing to fix the problem and make sure it doesn't happen again.

5. Share your letter with the right person (or people).

Now that you've put in the effort to write a strong apology letter, you want to make sure it comes across to the right audience.

If you're dealing with small, relatively routine mishaps (like overcharges or delayed shipments) you can spread out these personalized apology letters one by one. You can send this message when a customer contacts you for support over the phone or via chat.

When this happens, it's important to have the right tools to make it easier to deliver or share an apology letter. This means connecting with customers in the way that works best for them.

For one-on-one correspondence, a comprehensive communications tool like RingCentral Engage Digital™ can ensure you're connecting with anxious customers in a way that's tailored to their needs. With RingCentral Engage Digital, if an angry customer is sending complaints by email and also angrily tweeting at you on Twitter, you can combine these identities to get a complete picture of the customer's complaints:
When you're ready to respond with your apology letter, you can easily send it using the customer's preferred communication method – perhaps the customer really just wants a quick phone call and an email confirmation to let them know. A real human being accepts their problem.

There are some instances where you may need to share your apology letter publicly. After a major incident—one that goes viral on social media or garners media attention—you'll need to find ways to get your message across to as many people as quickly as possible.

At this time, statements sent via social media, press releases, or email can be a great way to get your apology letter out en masse.

5 types of Apology Letters (with examples)

Do you need some inspiration to start your apology letter? Here are five different types of apology letters and examples of each from other brands.

1. Apology letter to the customer for the mistake

Mistakes include a variety of things, from sending the wrong item to a customer to running out of your best-selling item due to a supply-chain error – like what happened to a KFC restaurant in the UK.

Nearly 900 locations were forced to temporarily close after they ran out of chicken, a staple for fast-food restaurants. To apologize, the brand issued an apology on digital media channels and in some newspapers and magazines.
KFC has admitted their mistake and are having a little fun at the same time. At the end of the day, their mishap caused some inconvenience to customers, but the mild irritation of not getting your favorite fried chicken can be easily forgiven.

What to take: Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. If the mistake is relatively minor and you think your audience isn't too upset by the accident, enjoy your apology—but be sure to read the room. You would rather not appear to be obtuse.

Sorry Letter
Sorry Letter

2. How to apologize to the customer for delay

As consumers, we've become accustomed to receiving deliveries and packages just a few days after ordering (or in some places, even the same day). When items don't arrive on time, it's normal to wonder where your package is.

Anti Social Social Club, a streetwear clothing label, was experiencing severe delays in merchandise, leaving customers so frustrated that over 5,000 upset customers signed a petition asking the Federal Trade Commission to take legal action against the brand. Was requested. The organization put out an expression of remorse accordingly:
Although we do not recommend waiting for potential federal intervention before issuing your apology, the ASSC does a good job of explaining their problem, apologizing for the inconvenience, and letting customers know they are aware of the issue.

What to take: The ASSC apology letter is short and to the point. This provides some context to the problem without making excuses and tells customers what they have done to resolve the issue and prevent the problem from occurring again.

3. Apologizing to the customer for poor service

When it comes to "bad service," there's having to wait another 20 minutes for your takeout order to be ready, and then there's the case of the United Airlines passenger being effectively gotten rid of from a trip in 2017.

After video of a man being dragged off a plane went viral on social media and news outlets, both passengers who experienced the incident firsthand and those who saw it on the Internet were justifiably outraged. The Assembled President sent a statement of regret letter trying to set things right:

Although an apology is only the first step toward rebuilding customer trust after a situation like this, this letter sets expectations for the company going forward. Beyond simply saying they are sorry, they continue to seek accountability by promising to conduct internal reviews and audits to improve their processes.

What to take: While hopefully your bad customer experience wasn't as severe as United's case, you can still learn a lot from the CEO's letter. Show empathy and understanding when connecting with your audience, and recognize when things can't be fixed with just "I'm sorry."

4. Writing an apology letter to the customer for overcharging

We rely heavily on technology to manage purchases and transactions. Although this works most of the time, sometimes an error can cause customers to be overcharged for their purchases. Whole Foods experienced such a mistake in 2015 when the weight on pre-packaged foods was mislabeled, causing customers to pay too much for the items they were purchasing.

In response, co-CEOs John Mackey and Walter Robb released an apology video explaining what happened and what steps they are taking to ensure customers are charged appropriately going forward.

In the video, Rob candidly admits that he made mistakes. They don't try to dance around the topic or pretend the mistake wasn't that big.

What to take: Video can be a great way to share your apology, especially if you're trying to connect with a large number of customers at once. The personal touch that can come when talking on video, including the ability to share emotions, can help you share emotions and build a stronger connection with your audience.

5. Apologizing to the customer for rude behavior

Whether we're talking about a rude waiter, an inefficient customer service representative, or an angry salesperson, rude behavior from an employee who should be there to help can ruin the entire experience with a brand.

You can commonly see complaints of this nature on review sites like Yelp. Although these issues may not be escalated directly to your team, you should still take the initiative to apologize for those situations. Here's an example:
This reply apologizes for the less-than-ideal experience and tells them that they have considered it to improve their customer satisfaction process – even if it means not winning that customer back.

What to take: Don't just view every apology as an opportunity to reconnect with upset customers. Even if someone isn't coming back, take the customer's feedback seriously so you can prevent the problem from recurring later. Letting the customer know that their experience is important to you can help you maintain a good relationship with that person.

A Template for Writing an Apology Letter to a Client

Having a template can help you create apology letters quickly and easily, and ensure your entire team is using the same message when resolving issues with customers.

To help you get started creating an apology letter that helps rebuild trust and improve customer relationships, simply fill out the blanks in this template.

Dear [customer name], we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused to you due to [issue]. At [your company name], we prioritize customer satisfaction and nothing less than making sure you are completely happy is acceptable.

This issue was caused by [logic (miscommunication, faulty technology, etc.)], and to ensure it does not happen again, we are taking the following steps to improve [list of changes being made (instructional meetings, New frameworks and cycles), etc.)].

We are also going to provide you [offers]. We hope it can complete our monitoring.

We esteem you as a client and thank you for confiding in us with your business. If there is anything we can do to make this situation better, please let us know.

Thank you,

[Name of company representative]

While this is an incredible spot to begin, make certain to make the message your own! Stay true to your voice (as we saw in the KFC example) and offer resolutions that you think will fit well with your audience. Knowing what your customers' expectations and needs may be after a mistake has been made can help you get back on their good side.

Writing apology letters to customers isn't hard

Apologizing is a skill that requires a lot of practice, but fortunately, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Although we always want to make sure we're preventing as many mistakes as possible, knowing what to do or say when something inevitably goes wrong can make the situation much less difficult.

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