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How to write an Apology email to customers

11 min read
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Sending apology emails to customers can be the difference between profitability and loss.

Displeased customers can hurt your business with negative reviews; they can even drive away your best employees.

One negative review can cost you 22 percent of your customers. And, three bad reviews can deplete your customer base by 59 percent!

One more bad review and 70 percent of your customers can say goodbye.

online review importance


Think ROI: Why Apologizing to Customers Matter

Three reasons why customers stay after a negative experience:

  1. Received an apology message
  2. Was given a discount
  3. Shown proof of improved customer service
negative experience

Apologies matter because they increase customer retention and reduce churn. But is customer retention as profitable?

One unresolved negative customer experience could require 12 positive reviews to annul.

So, you want to prevent negative reviews from happening at all. This preventive effort translates into higher customer retention.

likelihood of purchase

Existing customers are several times more likely to buy from you than new customers. Let’s look at Pointillist’s calculation for customer retention to see what’s possible.

customer retention calculation

As much as 62 percent of customers will share their bad experiences with others. But the study also showed that 72 percent of these customers would share their positive encounters too.

So the positives have it at 10 percent more!

The 7 Ingredients of Successful Apology Emails

  1. Say it, “I’m sorry”: Don’t imply that you are sorry. Say it.
  2. Take responsibility for the mishap: Customers assume you’re irresponsible if you shift blames. So don’t blame someone else even if they directly caused the error. Own the mistake.
  3. Seek forgiveness: Make it clear that you’re apologizing for the mistake, and you’d appreciate that the customer accepts your apologies.
  4. Explain what went wrong: Don’t leave anything to the customer’s imagination. Tell them what and how things happened. Explain your preventive efforts and why they couldn’t stop the mishap. Be honest.
  5. Address the magnitude of the mistake: Acknowledge the customer’s emotions, feelings, and pains. If this mistake costs your customer money, time, or other resources, address them in your message.
  6. Recommend possible solutions: Give a clear recovery plan. Tell customers what you’ll do or have done to fix the mistake.
  7. Follow up with your customer: Silence isn’t an answer. Follow up to ensure they acknowledge your apology and open to resolving the issue.

If they have other suggestions, listen. Ensure they feel understood and cared for throughout this reconciliatory process.

Make your apology as personal as possible. So, apart from sending an email to your customers, call or chat with them. You want to understand their feelings and grievances.

Chats can be particularly helpful as links on Messenger get about 80 percent of clicks.

Albeit, you’ll want to use email for two reasons. It’s less intrusive than calls or chats, and 99 percent of email users read their email messages daily.

12 Email Apology Templates

email apology templates

Image Credit: Toa Heftiba

Apology emails can be of two types—single customer or mass apology. Wondering what the differences are?

Well, single customer apologies

  1. Would address a case peculiar to a customer
  2. May need more email exchanges than mass apologies and,
  3. May call for more personalization

Templates for Single Customer Apologies

Here are some templates to help you deliver personal apologies to customers.

1. Negative Product or Service Experience

apology email to customers

Image Credit: Francisco Moreno

Even the best products and services can face defects and fall short of their promise. Here’s a template to address the complaint of a customer about defective products.

——

Dear [Customer Name],

Thanks for letting us know about your defective [product name]. I’m sorry we let you down.

We completely understand your disappointment. Please accept my apologies.

We’ve shipped a replacement [product name] to you. We also enclosed a $15 discount coupon, if you ever decide to buy from us again.

[Customer Name], thanks for bringing this issue to our notice.

[Your name],

[Your company] Customer Service

——

Here’s a template for negative service experience:

——

Dear [Customer Name],

Thanks for letting us know we served you poorly. I’m sorry we let you down.

We completely understand your disappointment. Please accept my apologies.

To fix this situation, [Explain the solutions you’ll provide and how you’ll provide them].

[Offer an incentive or compensation].

[Customer name], thanks for bringing this issue to our notice.

[Your name],

[Your company] Customer Service

——

2. Logistic, Administrative, or Production Emergencies

emergency apology emails

Image Credit: Erik Kroon

Business rarely goes as the crow flies. Changes happen—suddenly, at times.

You may change delivery schedules, alter budgets mid-production, or redesign things. A thousand other things could befall you.

But your customer has lofty expectations because you’ve made juicy promises.

How do you let them know you care when the goalpost has since shifted?

——

Hello [Customer Name],

I’m sorry, we have an emergency. Our administrative/logistics/production plans have changed.

Here’s what we found. [Explain the changes that happened and why they happened. Show how you couldn’t anticipate them].

Here’s how we plan to resolve this situation. [Explain how you’ll get back on course and how you’ll prevent future incidents]

To ease this sudden change, we thought it might help to [compensation for the customer].

We are genuinely sorry for this emergency.

[Your Name],

[Your Company] Customer Service

——

3.  Billing Error

billing error apology email

Image Credit: Square

Glitches can cause billing errors. What do you say when they happen?

——

Dear [Customer Name],

Thanks for contacting us. I’m sorry we charged you twice.

We’ve refunded you [AMOUNT], including extra charges and tax. This refund may take days to reflect on your balance.

Thanks for choosing us.

Sincerely,

[Your Name],

[Your Company] Customer Service

——

4. Late Product or Service Delivery

late delivery sorry email

Image Credit: Brett Jordan

——

Dear [Customer Name],

We’re sorry for the delivery delay.

Here’s what happened — [Explain why your delivery came late].

Here’s how we’ll fix this — [Explain how you will prevent future delivery delays].

To compensate for this negative experience, [Say your compensation].

Thanks for choosing us.

[Your Name],

[Your Company] Customer Service

——

5. Troubleshooting and Clarifying a Problem

troubleshooting email
Image Credit: David Travis

How do you let a customer know you’re troubleshooting a problem?

The first time you receive an alert on the situation, you can send this email,

——

Hello [Customer Name],

I’m sorry for [insert problem here]. We’re working on the issue right now.

We’ll share any findings, helpful insights, and appropriate solutions soon.

Please be patient with us.

Sincerely,

[Your Name],

[Your Company]

——

But what if you need more clarity on the issue?

Here’s an email template to help.

——

Hello [Customer Name],

Thanks for contacting us about [insert issue]. Our [insert appropriate department] is trying to understand the situation. We appreciate your patience.

We’ve tried many paths to resolve this issue, but it persists. Here’s what we’ve attempted:

[List all the solution paths you’ve attempted so far]

We’re not stopping here.

We’ll need some information from you:

[List your questions]

[Customer Name] thanks for cooperating with us. I’m optimistic we’ll find a solution.

Sincerely,

[Your Name],

[Your Company]

——

6. Late Email Responses or Replies

late response apology
Image Credit: Jeshoots.com

Keeping a customer waiting is bad for business. But it could happen for many legitimate reasons. When it happens, here’s what to say.

——

Hello [Customer Name],

I’m sorry for the late reply.

Here’s what happened — [Explain why you’re replying late].

Thanks for your message. [Give a full reply to the client’s request].

Please let me know your thoughts.

[Your Name],

[Your Company]

——

7. Sent a Customer a Piece of Misleading or Wrong Information

wrong way sign
Image Credit: Free to Use Sounds

This apology message applies when you send a wrong email message, account details, or other information to a customer.

A customer service agent once sent me incorrect login information!

It took 12 hours to get the correct login; the time loss was irredeemable. Although I didn’t leave a bad review, some customers won’t leave them spotless.

Here’s your script.

——

Hi [Customer Name],

I sent you the wrong information! I’m sorry.

See the correct information enclosed [OR] sent to you in a different email message.

Please take a look.

[Insert information here if enclosing it in this email]

I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

Sincerely,

[Your Name],

[Your Company]

——

Dealing with an angry customer needs the right bent of mind. Learn how to think when pacifying customers

Templates for Mass Customer Email Apologies

grayscale photo of people sitting on chair
Image Credit: David Ragusa

Saying sorry to a group of angry or potentially angry customers isn’t quite the same as apologizing to individuals.

Here’s what’s different,

  • Manage personalization:  If you don’t have your customers’ names, then don’t address them by name.
  • Predict and address FAQs in advance:  You don’t want to fill your inbox with customer questions following the email blast.
  • Respond to customer concerns and questions fast: As your customers receive your messages, they may have questions and concerns. Address them instantly.

1. Interruptions for Scheduled Maintenance

scheduled maintenance email
Image Credit: Coby Shimabukuro

Scheduled maintenance interrupts customers anyway. So, they deserve an apology.

Here’s what to say.

——

Dear valuable [Company Name] customers,

We’re scheduling maintenance on our servers/platform for [Date, Time, and Duration of Service Interruption]. We apologize for any inconvenience.

This maintenance is vital because [Explain the importance of the maintenance and benefits to customers]

Thanks for choosing us.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

——

2. Mass Emergencies

mass emergencies email
Image Credit: Edwin Andrade

You could run into dozens of emergencies; security, server outages, traffic peak time, DDoS attacks, and more.

How to apologize:

——

Dear esteemed [Company Name] customers,

We regret to inform you that [Emergency Situation] has happened/is happening and we’re working hard to salvage the situation.

Here’s what we’ve found, [give full incident report].

Here’s what we’re doing to fix this situation,

[Outline your solutions and execution time frame]

If we can help in more ways, please let us know.

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

——

3. Mass Product Defect

mass product defect email
Image Credit: Julia Joppient 

It’s not uncommon for companies to have a mass product recall. What do you say in a mass product apology email?

Apology Email Template for Mass Product Defect

——

Dear valuable [Company Name] customers,

I regret to announce that our latest version of [product] is defective. We’re sorry.

[Explain the mass defect and safety standards you’d usually uphold that fell short].

If [product] is in your possession, please return it to the retailer you’d bought it from or ship it free of charge to this [address] and get a full refund.

If you’ve used [product], please stop using it.

We’re committed to keeping this incident an isolated event.

Please, you may send us your questions, complaints, and concerns. We apologize for this unpleasant event.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

——

4. Regulatory Changes that Might Influence a Service or Product

no drones signage on brown wooden post across mountain with fogs
Image Credit: Martin Sanchez

Importation tariffs could go up, or the government may demand that you share your customers’ data.

Yes, it’s not your fault.

But buyer sentiments matter. Hence the need to apologize.

——

Dear esteemed [Company Name] customers,

We are making changes to how we serve you due to [regulation]. I’m sorry for any inconvenience.

Please visit these pages on our site for details and how [regulation]/changes will influence our relationship:

[Reference Links]

Please accept our sincere apologies.

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

——

5. Disaster Management

disaster management email
Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema

Natural or human-made disasters shouldn’t get in the way of your business.

urging people to evacuate

What do you say when your customers must experience service interruptions due to political unrest or natural disasters?

——

Dear esteemed [Company Name/Event] customer/attendee,

I’m sorry to inform you that we’ve canceled our [planned event].

There is a growing concern of [conflict/natural disaster] in the [venue of interest].

We apologize for the inconvenience.

In the meantime, we’re refunding all payments and will announce a new date and time in the future.

Please reply to this email if you have any requests or concerns.

[Your Name]

[Your Company]

——

Using the right words is everything. Here are phrases you should never use in an email

What Makes an Apology Weak (and Their Fixes)

I am sorry email

Apologize on time, incentivize and respond to your customers’ messages, and never repeat mistakes.

Or your apology might be worthless.

1. The Apology Comes Late

Only 17 percent of customers recommend brands that deliver slow but effective solutions. Meanwhile, 33 percent recommend brands that address issues fast and efficiently.

That’s 100 percent more recommendations!

Give an apology quickly. Some customers are quick to leave back reviews.

Reduce or ax bottlenecks around customer apology communications. Don’t just collect customer feedback, communicate with them. Savvy brands use faster tools like

  • On-site chat
  • Social media apps
  • Social and web listening tools

To respond faster to customer complaints and needs.

2. The Tone Isn’t Apologetic Enough

Speed is not enough. Your apology email must show you take responsibility for the situation.

Additionally, give them incentives. Gifts make customers happier.

Don’t apologize halfway and then slip into self-justification or get in an argument with your customer. Acknowledge their emotions and their right to superior service.

3. Ignoring Your Customer

Ignoring part or all of a customers’ complaints or follow up requests is a telltale attitude of deliberate negligence. About 79 percent of customers said brands ignored them.

Don’t assume your customer would have answers. Delight your customers.

4. Repeating Mistakes

What’s worse than making a mistake? Repeating the error!

Nothing announces incompetence more than repeat mistakes.

But the fix is simple: Never repeat mistakes.

Keep your servers running. Don’t schedule maintenance too often.

Secure your production, admin, and logistic resources—don’t wait to run out of paper, fuel, spices, or space.

Apology Email Follow Up Templates

customer apology email follow up
Image Credit: Christopher Alvarenga

Customers may not give immediate replies to apology emails. Or they may need some follow up.

What do you say:

——

Hello [Customer Name],

I’m following up on [Description Of Case].

Are/Is the solution(s) we proposed useful? Would you want to proceed?

If you missed it, I’d proposed [Explain your proposed solution again].

Would this solution work, or do you have alternative thoughts?

Hope to get your reply soon.

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

——

If a Reply Isn’t Necessary

Your proposed solution may not require customer approval and any follow up in itself. So how do you heal your relationship with this customer?

Here’s a follow-up email template to help:

——

Hello [Customer Name],

I’m sorry for the last incident of [Name Negative Event].

I know we let you down.

So, I’m following up on the solution we provided. Did it help? Could we have done better? Please let us know.

I hope you allow us to continue serving you.

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

——

Wrap Up

Your apology letters have one mission; win the customer back. They help make your customers stick with you beyond unfortunate events.

The value of improving your customer retention rates outweighs going after new leads. Most times, a simple apology letter does the magic.

Author
Harsh Vardhan
Harsh is the content lead at Hiver. He's jocular, loves dogs, and is always up for a road trip. He also reads sometimes.