The ultimate guide to apology letters: 10 ways to save customers by saying ‘I’m sorry’
«Where is my parcel? It’s already been a week since I paid for it!» email interrupted Kevin’s relaxed work on Friday. Unfortunately, he forgot to notify the client about the delay. So now, he has to say sorry for the inconvenience. And it should sound convincing.
This is a typical situation that a customer support team has to deal with on an everyday basis. It always proves that everyone should be able to answer the question ‘How do I apologize for the inconvenience?». That’s no easy task.
A successful apology can turn a negative experience into a positive one, an upset customer into a loyal one, and a bad reputation into a great one.
In this ‘sorry for inconvenience’ guide, we have described the most common situations when customer service reps need to send formal apologies to clients and samples of such emails for your inspiration.
But first, let’s check if we’re on the same page about the definition.
An apology email is a letter written to apologize for one’s mistake or any sort of discomfort or harm caused. Companies often send apology letters to customers to retain them and mend up broken relationships. The text of such a message may include explanations for delays/mistakes/cancellations and offer incredibly attractive bonuses for clients to compensate for the inconvenience.
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How to apologize in an email: 5 things NOT to do
A positive word of mouth can do wonders for your business, but you should know how to formulate emails not to repel customers. A cut-and-dried ‘I’m sorry for the inconvenience’ won’t make things better — people should see you’re really trying to alleviate their concerns! You have to put the customer at the center of your business.
How to show customers that you’re geared up to help? Avoid certain formulations. Here’s an example of apology notes that are doomed to fail:
I am sorry for the accident. This was a one-off situation, and it will not repeat.
Your package had actually arrived at the post office. Unfortunately, postal workers failed to scan the QR-code on the box and update the shipping status. Shortly after, they sent the parcel back to us. Our company will do its best to investigate the case and take measures to prevent such mistakes in the future.
Once again, I am very sorry for your inconvenience. Please, contact our customer support to have your parcel dispatched again or receive the full compensation. We are always glad to help.
Does this make this process easier on Mark’s nerves? Absolutely not because:
- the company blames third-party operators while denying customer’s negative experiences;
- Lindsey promises to investigate the case in the future instead of providing any solutions right now;
- instead of helping Mark personally, Lindsey sends him to customer support service.
The explanations mentioned above do not solve Mark’s problem in any way. Instead, he’s left alone with the issue and has to waste much more time than expected.
Just like our next customer in case — Alice. She purchased tickets to her favorite band’s concert, which was canceled. Here’s the apology letter to an unsatisfied customer she received:
Unfortunately, the concert of The Strawberries band on 12.04.2021 in Lumiere Hall was canceled. We are very sorry for the inconvenience.
Our company does its best to organize events as scheduled. However, due to quarantine measures caused by Covid-19, we are forced to comply with newly emerging restrictions and requirements.
Please contact us if you have any concerns or questions regarding the cancellation policy and ticket refund. We would be glad to help you.
What’s wrong here? Alice has all reasons to say goodbye to this organizer since:
- it hasn’t been specified whether the concert will be rescheduled;
- it relieved oneself of responsibility for the cancellation, but hasn’t offered any solutions like refunding;
- Brian did not offer Alice a helping hand, so she has to undergo the hell cycle of customer support service right from the start.
How to prevent such mistakes? Avoid using the following things when crafting a ’we apologize for any inconvenience’ letter:
- Excuses and blaming others. When justifying itself by consequences and external conditions, a company seems to be shedding its responsibility. When you’re writing an apology letter, it should be only about you — no third parties.
- Beating around the bush. Instead of generalizing and saying ‘an issue’, be particular about the situation. This way, a customer will know you are really into the problem, always ready to help. If possible, mention the event that led to the mistake.
- Talking too much about the customer. Avoid the ‘That you’ phrase, for example, «I’m sorry that you were offended» or «I’m sorry that you feel that way.» There’s no need to focus on the client’s emotions. Stay brief and start your apology letter to a customer by describing your mistake and proceed to the apology.
- Giving no options or solutions. Clients receiving ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience’ and nothing else stay frustrated. How can it help anyone eliminate their problem? Customers don’t need your pity — they need solutions. If you are unable to resolve an issue right now, thank a recipient for waiting and offer a bonus: discount, free shipping, coupons, etc.
- Readdressing to customer support. Do not leave the customer with his problems halfway. If you really want to apologize for any inconvenience, you should do everything in your power to help the client. Finish your letter by asking ‘How can I help you?’ or saying ‘If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask me’. That shows your sincere involvement.
Common situations that require apology letters (with examples)
Different mistakes require different apologies, so finding the right words might be insanely difficult. Here are the most common customer service scenarios in the SaaS and eCommerce sectors, with relevant examples of letters. Below, you will find alternative ways to express your regrets and turn bane into a boon.
Apology letters for SaaS companies
Technical issues, downtimes, and poor communication are pretty widespread in the SaaS sphere. Naturally, that irritates customers, so make sure to inform them about technical issues as soon as possible. Thus, they will know you’re already working on the problem, and access to service will soon be restored.
Here are the most common situations and related apology letter templates.
Number 3 sums up a versatile apology letter for any conflict, guaranteed.
1. System downtime
If there’s something wrong with your servers or other technical facilities, your apologies statement should contain this information. Let users know you’re aware of the problem and doing your best to solve it.
- Provide explanations for technical issues.
- Specify dates when the issue will be fixed.
- If it’s not possible to solve the problem ASAP, offer alternatives.
2. Mass ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ message (after a downtime)
Got no time to warn your customers about the downtime? Once you fix it, express your apology for bad service and consider some compensation. This way, your reputation will stay unaffected by clients’ discontent.
- Specify the date and details (briefly) of the downtime.
- Ensure customers that it’s a rare occasion with your services.
- Offer some sort of compensation as a sign of apology.
3. Poor customer service
If customers have a negative experience with anyone from your company’s staff, their impression may have a lasting impact on… your rival’s wallet.
Don’t let conflicts ruin your relationship — there’s always a way to smooth things over.
- A customer should see you admit the mistake.
- Let the client know he’s in safe hands now and will receive decent support further on.
- Don’t leave the initial problem unsolved!
- The agent writing an apology letter should offer personal help ─ it shows concern and care.
4. Game or software bug
Why should you send a customer service apology email when software bugs are revealed? Then, people will know you are proactive in fixing the issues and won’t be forced to find alternatives to your digital products.
Devoted fans spend years waiting for game releases, so thank them for loyalty and do a favor — notify them about bugs before their experience gets spoiled irreversibly.
- You don’t have to be too serious — a bit of humor can smoothen things.
- If possible, explain to players how to avoid the game being disrupted with a bug. For example, they can choose alternative characters or obtain from visiting certain virtual spots.
- Is your bug significant? Compensate players with discounts, free game objects, or other bonuses. Put the focus on positive user experience — your goal is to keep it untarnished.
- Notify users as soon as you fix the problem.
5. Scheduled maintenance
People need your support at every stage of the customer journey — not only when the problem hits. If you plan to perform technical maintenance works, it would be very kind of you to notify users about it. That shows your professionalism and true concern about customers’ experience.
- Send the apology letter a few days in advance and remind them about maintenance works 12-24 hours before starting.
- Briefly explain the reasons for the work and how it will benefit customers.
- Thank clients for their patience and understanding.
- Got an alternative service as a temporary replacement? Kindly offer it to your customers.
6. Billing issues
The number one rule of billing issues is to compensate a customer as soon as possible. If possible, explain the reasons for the mistake: let the client know it’s not a fraud, and you did not intend to charge any hidden payments.
- Don’t postpone the answer — solve billing issues quickly.
- Thank customers for reporting on the issue.
- Explain the reasons for the problem.
Feel free to use these templates when your business email box is overloaded with customer requests and complaints and you need ready-made text samples.
Letters for eCommerce projects
How to apologize professionally in an email when your clients face delays and poor quality of items? First, do not make them wait even longer — they wasted enough time already. Second, send instant feedback with ready solutions and options.
Don’t forget that connection breeds cooperation. When buyers see your genuine concerns, they are more likely to buy anything from you again.
1. Delivery delays
Even if delivery troubles happen on the carrier’s side, you bear the responsibility for the customer’s satisfaction, so deal with anger in a dignified way. Your number one priority is to specify delivery dates.
If deadlines are heavily violated, you should provide some compensation: that significantly increases your chance of retaining a client.
- You don’t have to go into details about the reasons for the delay ─ focus on the solution.
- Not sure about shipping dates? Promise to notify the customer once the parcel is delivered.
- Offer compensation and further help.
2. Damaged or defective product/service
Take these complaints seriously, as one negative review with the photos of your distorted products may avert hundreds of customers. News spreads like fire on the Internet, so don’t make things worse by neglecting proper customer support.
- Specify the product with its name, as it shows you’re well aware of the situation.
- Never blame postal companies because safe packaging is the seller’s responsibility!
- Ship the replacement product beforehand (if in stock) or come up with decent compensation.
- Always thank customers for their feedback and highlight that it helps you grow and improve service quality.
3. Product recall
Consumers won’t even notice that your canned cat food contains too much zinc, but letters explaining product recalls show that you really care. Sincerity in eCommerce is so rare these days, so try to serve your customers as you’d do your loved family members.
- Emphasize that you take care of customers’ safety.
- Be particular about the products and batches affected. A customer should not have an impression like your entire lineup of products is defective.
- Explain how you solve the problem.
- Offer replacement or refund for defective products.
4. Delayed refund
People hate waiting. Making them wait twice is one of the worst things a company can do. Your ‘sorry about inconvenience’ won’t be enough, so make sure to sweeten the deal with a bonus for patience.
- Give explanations for the delay.
- Compensation is a must if you want to retain the customer.
- Thank the client for patience and remind them that you value their loyalty.
How to write an apology letter to clients
How to compose a convincing apology letter to a customer for an error? If you feel like the samples mentioned above aren’t perfect enough to fit in your situation, follow this step-by-step instruction for a more personalized approach.
- Start with addressing a customer by name.
- Describe the problem briefly and apologize for it.
- Provide a short but ample explanation of what causes the issue.
- Give solutions for the problem and, if possible, compensate a customer for the inconvenience.
- Finish with offering additional help.
- Provide the customer support agent’s credentials for further communication.
Here are a few recommendations that will make your sorry email sound more convincing and soothing.
Express your sincere apologies
This point might be obvious since you write a business apology. Yet, your ‘Sorry’ should sound natural, which is not easy to do in official messages. Do not try to find excuses — it can make your apology sound forced or fake. Customers who feel that the company doesn’t care about them are not likely to return ever again.
Your apology for poor customer service is worth nothing until you take measures. For example, has your customer received a damaged item? Send the replacement immediately after receiving the complaint. Is your system experiencing downtime? Report on that via mass email — people should know that you’re working tight-lipped on fixing it.
The golden rule of quality customer support is helping ASAP. That shows your genuine concern and care about clients.
Admit the mistake
Let’s face it: we all hate feeling guilty and accepting the blame. Owning your mistake might be very tough on your ego, but you should take the high road instead of trying to find someone else to bear the responsibility.
But remember that you have a chance to make it up for your customer. By taking your responsibility and showing concern in problem-solving, you raise the brand’s reputation in your recipient’s eyes.
Provide clear explanations
Don’t ever be vague about the problem and solutions — it irritates people. Your next step is to explain to your clients what went wrong. Understanding the reasons can calm them down. Detailed explanations show your empathy and involvement, so you should always investigate the event.
Pro tip: Do not try to deflect your blame or deny your role in the error. Even if it really does not depend on you.
Focus on the customer’s goals, not feelings
When writing an apologetic email, do not emphasize the client’s feelings with ‘I know it has caused you inconvenience’ or ‘We understand how frustrated you feel about this incident. Most people understand that things happen and, most likely, have been in your place before.
A customer has clear goals that your company’s service or product should accomplish. So focus on solutions, not tons of empathy. If your errors have prevented a client from getting the desired item or service, try to make it up as soon as possible. Be proactive — customers will appreciate it.
Come up with a plan of action
Since you’ve tackled a problem, the next logical step would be to give a clear solution. Having a clear plan of action is a must because it will alleviate customer’s concerns even before the problem gets solved.
Besides, you raise trust by showing transparency on how you will deal with the issue. Customers will rest assured that they have learned the lesson and will not repeat the mistake. So try to express that their complaints are appreciated and help your company improve the overall user experience.
Don’t take it personally
Customer complaints might hurt because a) you have to admit your mistakes; b) you risk losing a client or many of them. However, remember that mistakes are inevitable for any human and are a natural part of evolution.
So instead of beating yourself up, think of the lessons you can learn and ways to improve your business. Be thankful to clients who complain or report on your products — they help you grow up!
Provide clients with feedback
This is essential when trying to restore your relationship with customers you’ve failed to serve correctly. When finishing your letter, provide customers with a channel for communication. Emphasize that their questions and concerns are always welcomed, and you are here from sunup to sundown to solve their problems.
Mention that their opinion matters and helps you grow your business and deliver an impeccable user experience. Ideally, a client should be able to contact a customer support agent personally.
Pro tip: Run a survey to evaluate your customers’ experience. It’s better to prevent troubles than spend eternity trying to solve them.
Still a bit confused and don’t know how to apologize to a customer via email? Let Dashly be your ultimate guide through the customer support process.
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How to apologize in email?
Your primary goal is not just to express regrets — you should sound sincere and come up with solutions for a customer’s problem. You can craft a sorry email using the following formula:
- Address the customer by name.
- Express your apology.
- Describe the situation and reasons for the problem.
- Come up with solutions and compensation.
- Ask for forgiveness.
- Offer further help and customer support.
How to say ‘Sorry for the inconvenience’ differently?
When writing an apology letter for a customer complaint, avoid repeating the same phrase repeatedly. Adjust words according to the situation.
Here’s a set of apology phrases you can use:
- Our mistake! As a token of our apology, please accept…
- Our bad! We assure you it doesn’t happen again.
- We are here to apologize for the…
- We can see how important this is…
- I realize your frustration…
- Please, accept my sincere apologies…
- How can I make up for the [situation]?
- I realize the situation is stressful, I would feel it too…
- We regret any trouble you may have faced…
- On behalf of our team, I would like to fix it up by…
- This is quite a situation. As a sign of apology, we…
- We screwed up! To make it up to you…
- As a way to ask for your forgiveness
- We are extremely grieved that…
- We offer our apologies for the discomfort you may have had…
- We bring our huge apologies to you as our valued customer.
How to make my apologies sound convincing?
Actions speak louder than words. Show customers that you’re working on their problems or, if possible, offer several solutions to choose from.
- Company is nothing without a strong principles and goals, so as the support team. In Customer Support Service Philosophy article, we’ve collected bright examples to inspire you and a detailed guide on how to use them to build yours team philosophy.
- Read or download The Ultimate Guide To Customer Support. It includes our support team expertise: how to build a team, processes, communication, etc.
- We’ve made some fun and collected the «Top 19 GIFs About Support Team». I promise, you’ll like it 😊
- There is a difference between the support of the prospect, client, and loyal client. Read «How to Provide Effective Support at Every Stage of Customer Journey Map»
- How to Build the Greatest Customer Support — Tips from the Dashly Customer Support Team.