How to write an effective apologies email to customers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If a customer complains about a product or service, it's useful that businesses and customer service teams address these concerns and apologise where appropriate. Writing apology emails to customers is a vital skill for anyone in a customer-facing role. Understanding the purpose of writing apologies by email and learning tips to write effective apologies, could help you, working in any industry, to build and maintain positive relationships with their customers. In this article, we explore what an email apology is and how to write an effective apologies email to customers by acknowledging their concerns and offering solutions.

What's the purpose of an apologies email?

Writing apologies emails is useful because it's a fast and convenient way to address individual customer concerns and work with customers to find an acceptable solution. Investing time writing personal apologies to customers shows your customers you care about their experience with your organisation and that you want to make amends when something goes wrong. Writing effective apologies to customers by email may offer many positive benefits for an organisation, including increasing customer satisfaction and customer retention, which may have a positive impact on long-term sales and revenue. An effective email to apologise is:

  • Concise: A concise email that gets straight to the subject matter doesn't waste the customer's time and shows your commitment to finding an appropriate solution.

  • Formal: Apology emails use a formal writing style and often feature an organisation logo or watermark to reassure customers that they are official communication.

  • Personal: A personal email that you address specifically to the individual shows that your organisation takes the time to address customer complaints directly.

Related: 10 ways to offer good gustomer service

How to write effective apologies emails

If you want to apologise to customers when something has gone wrong or the service your organisation offers hasn't met your standards, it's essential to know how to write an effective apology email. An apology email can build a trusting relationship between your organisation and customers and maximise the chances that an unhappy customer returns to shop with your organisation again. Follow the steps below to find out how to write a successful apology email to dissatisfied customers:

1. Apologise as soon as possible

It's important to try and send out an apology email as soon as possible after receiving a complaint from a customer. Customers who wait a long time to receive a reply to their complaints may become increasingly unhappy or even move on to working with another organisation while they're waiting for a reply. The sooner your organisation sends an apology email, the easier it is to calm an angry customer and rectify the situation before they move on. If you haven't yet had time to explore the issue, send a quick email explaining that you're looking into the problem first.

Related: How to write an effective apology letter (with examples)

2. Show that you understand the issue

In your apology email, it's useful to show that you understand the issue and know why your customer is complaining. Use phrases like 'I understand that...' and 'I can see that...' to acknowledge your customer's concerns and tailor your email to their complaints. This demonstrates that you understand their frustration. It's beneficial to address customer complaints without being defensive or reactionary, which means believing what your customers tell you about their experience. This is particularly important before you look into complaints to explore their validity.

Related: How to write customer service emails (with examples)

3. Own up to mistakes

After you look into a customer complaint to find out what really happened and whether anyone in your organisation made any mistakes, it's essential to use an apology email to own up to any mistakes that your company made. Defending your company even when staff members have made serious mistakes may lose you customers and show that your organisation does not take customer concerns seriously. Take responsibility for mistakes by admitting that they occurred and express your sincere apologies for the incident.

Related: How to overcome making mistakes at work in 10 simple steps

4. Explain what went wrong

A customer may be unhappy due to a mix-up or a mistake that is not the fault of anyone working in your organisation. No matter where the fault lies, it's essential to explain to your customer why they had a poor experience and make it clear that their experience does not reflect the service that your organisation offers. For example, if their delivery didn't arrive on time due to a mix-up with your courier, this reassures your customer that your usual delivery times are much more reasonable and provides an explanation for their negative experience.

5. Stay in contact

If you're not yet sure what the cause of the problem is, simply explain that you're still looking into the issue. Some customer complaints may take a long time to resolve, particularly if the cause of the issue is difficult to identify or the problem is hard to resolve. Staying in regular contact with customers during the complaints process shows your customers that you haven't forgotten about them. If you're making progress in your enquiries, provide a brief update explaining the progress you're making and what your next steps are.

6. Commit to a solution

It's essential to offer a solution alongside your apology. This involves explaining how your organisation is taking steps to fix the problem, either for the individual customer or for future customers. For example, if a customer complains about a late delivery, and many other customers have made similar complaints recently, your organisation may choose to use a different courier for deliveries and explaining this to customers shows that you're taking action to amend the problem. Be specific in explaining how your organisation is going to make sure similar issues don't arise in the future.

Related: What does good customer service look like? (With examples)

7. Offer compensation

In situations where someone within your organisation has made a serious mistake that compromises the quality of the service or products you offer, compensation or similar reimbursements may be appropriate. It's possible to offer compensation to customers in several different ways:

  • A refund or credit on the customer's account. This is appropriate if a customer pays for a service they didn't receive, or a product didn't arrive.

  • A discount on the customer's next purchase. You may offer a discount voucher, such as 20% or even 50% off another purchase if a customer has had a bad experience due to late deliveries or a rude staff member.

  • Other incentives include free shipping or a free gift. Small incentives like this may serve as a gesture to show your sincerity to customers.

Related: FAQ: what is desired compensation? (with tips)

8. Request feedback on your service

Before you close a customer complaint issue, you may want to ask your customer if they want to provide feedback on your service. Feedback is an important aspect of improving the service you offer to customers and it could help you to identify weaknesses in your customer service. Ask for feedback on how you handled the situation, how happy they were with the solution you offered, and whether they have any constructive criticisms on how your organisation could improve this.

You could also take the time to ask for more general feedback on the products and services that your company offers. This may help you identify how much a single negative experience impacts your customers' opinions of your organisation as a whole. Keep feedback forms short, concise and friendly to maximise the number of customers willing to take part and finish your correspondence with customers on a positive note.

Related: Apologies for the delay: How to send a late response

Apology email template

Below is a template for an effective apology email that addresses your customer's concerns concisely and sensitively:

Dear [name],

I'm sorry to hear of your recent experience with [your organisation name]. I understand that you're feeling frustrated because [describe the issue]. I'm deeply sorry that this occurred and sorry for any inconvenience it has caused you.

After conducting a thorough investigation into your complaint, we've found that the problem is the result of [explain the issue]. To prevent this from happening again, we are going to [explain the action you're taking]. To compensate you for your inconvenience, please accept this [compensation]. If you have any further concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us or provide feedback using the link below.

Best wishes,

[Your name]

Customer Service Team

Apology email example

Below is an example of an apology email using the template above:

Dear Megan

I'm sorry to hear of your recent experience with Cats Inc. I understand that you're feeling frustrated because your pet food delivery didn't arrive on time. I'm deeply sorry that this occurred and sorry for any inconvenience it has caused you.

After conducting a thorough investigation into your complaint, we've found that the problem is the result of an issue in our systems which meant that your order wasn't processed on schedule. We've got developers working hard to fix the issue now, so this shouldn't happen again. To compensate you for your inconvenience, please accept this 25% voucher on your next shop, up to £100. If you have any further concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Best wishes

John

Customer Service Team

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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