How to Write an Apology Letter to a Customer

How to Write an Apology Letter to a Customer

And 4 templates you can grab to use right now.
Guest Contributor
15 min read
15 min read

In a Nutshell

An apology letter is your business’s opportunity to make amends with upset customers and retain them for the future. When customers receive a genuine apology letter from a business, they are much more likely to forgive errors and to do business with them again.

Table of Contents

As much as we might be loath to admit it, sometimes things go wrong in a business and customers are negatively affected. The high standard of customer service we strive to deliver has been compromised and customer expectations are disappointed.

What’s the best way to rectify a mistake? A sincere and swift apology that makes amends and earns back your customer’s trust. 

When companies are humble enough to make an apology following a customer complaint, this goes a long way towards appeasing customers who may otherwise stop doing business with you. A well-crafted apology letter can make all the difference between retaining a customer for the long-term, improving customer satisfaction, and losing a customer to your competitors.

If a customer has been wronged, it’s common politeness to offer our most heartfelt apologies for any injury that has been caused. But there’s an art to writing an apology and that’s what we’ll be sharing in this post.

Scroll down if you’d like to see some customer apology letter templates. We’ve also included a sample apology letter from United Airlines.

What is a customer apology letter?

An apology letter isn’t complicated. It’s a letter that contains an apology to the customer for a mistake made on behalf of the business.

But to your customers, an apology letter can have a much greater meaning than simply words on a page. It symbolizes that your company is invested in its customers, takes ownership of its mistakes and is willing to take steps to correct the situation.

A customer apology letter can be the difference between a happy customer and one who vows never to buy from you again. 

Customers are usually forgiving of businesses who make a mistake – as long as they own up to it. Customers understand that these things happen and nobody is perfect. An apology letter is a formal way of showing that the company takes responsibility for its actions. Forgetting to apologize is one of the biggest customer service mistakes you can make.

You might deliver your apology letter through a variety of different ways. For example, it might be a personal email to a customer, a social media update, a formal press release, or a notice on your website.

How to apologize to a customer

1. Sincerely apologize

It’s no good apologizing to a customer if you’re not really sorry for what happened. Saying something like “I’m sorry if you felt that way” is classed as a fake apology and you’re not really taking ownership of the mistake.

Genuine apologies come from the heart and don’t make the customer feel like the problem is their fault. 

Customers will know when you mean the apology and when you are just going through the motions. Taking time to craft a thoughtful response will mean so much more than a generic apology fired off before you move on to the next task. Customers want to feel that you’re taking their problem seriously.

2. Specifically state what you’re sorry for

In your apology letter to customers, it’s a good idea to relay back to customers in your own words what you think you’re apologizing for. Stating to your customer “I apologize that we didn’t meet the high standards of customer service we set for ourselves” is much better than “I apologize for the inconvenience.”

Restating the problem back to the customer shows you understand what went wrong and means you know exactly what you’re apologizing for. This will make your apology much more effective than if you fail to include lots of detail. .

Using vague or generic language means you don’t really know why the customer is upset and that your apology could be intended for anyone. 

3. Provide an explanation

It really helps customers to feel better if you offer an explanation of exactly what went wrong to cause their problem. Understanding why the problem happened doesn’t make it go away but it provides vital context and gives customers a reason for why the injury has occurred.

Your explanation should never stray into the territory of making excuses. Avoid passing the buck onto a third party and focus on explaining your company’s role in causing the situation. Never, ever, place blame on the customer, or that’s worse than giving no apology at all.

When customers have an understanding of why they have been wronged, this soothes their wounds and makes them more receptive to your business’s apology. 

4. Give them a resolution

Since the customer has a problem, they’ll likely be wondering how your business intends to fix it. An apology is hollow if you don’t communicate to your customers how you intend to make it right.

If their shipment has gone awry, promise you’ll send them a replacement product within the next business day. If they have experienced an outage with your software, assure them that your engineers are working on it.

Whatever the problem, customers are waiting on tenterhooks to see how your business is going to fix it. Don’t disappoint them. 

Your resolution has to directly address the root of the problem. Offer it quickly and with the minimum of fuss. Make sure your customers don’t have to jump through hoops just to get their issue fixed.

5. Explain how you’ll stop it recurring

In order to win back your customer’s trust you need to convince them that the issue was a one-time occurrence. Customers aren’t likely to do business with you again if they anticipate more problems in the future.

Make it clear to your customers that your business is interested in making improvements and that their problem will lead you to raising your standard of service for all customers. You should also take full responsibility if the situation warrants it.

Emphasize that this is an isolated incident rather than part of a wider pattern of incompetence.  

Reassure them that you’re taking their concerns seriously and that you’ll use this as an opportunity to enhance the experience for all customers.

6. Offer a refund or credit

If a customer’s money and/or time has been wasted, offer them monetary compensation to make up for their loss. This could be in the form of a refund, or a voucher for money off their next purchase.

Providing them with a form of repayment soothes hurt feelings and shows your business wants to make it right. 

It’s not so much about the size of the amount as it is genuinely wanting to make up for any harm your business has caused. A discount can incentivize customers to shop with you again, even if they have had a recent negative experience with your brand.

Customers want to feel like they are getting something in return for the inconvenience your business has caused them, so make it a policy to offer compensation when your business has made a mistake. It shows that your company is remorseful and willing to make it right.

7. Proactively ask for feedback

In many cases, an upset customer simply wants to be acknowledged by the business. By having their issue recognized and asking for their feedback on how you handled the issue, customers know that your business cares about them and what they think.

In collecting feedback from your unhappiest customers, your business can promote changes that will benefit everyone. Remember, 96% of your customers never complain, and simply leave without a single word.

Apology letters are a learning experience for the business to gather more feedback from customers. 

Your apology email is a chance for your business to find out more about what went wrong and then steps to prevent it happening in the future. If you have concrete evidence for what makes customers unhappy, you know how to avoid that happening again.

8. Follow up

If you can, send a follow-up message to customers after apologizing to find out if they were satisfied with your service. The simple act of following up shows your business is truly invested in the outcome for the customer and that the apology was indeed genuine.

If you don’t follow up, customers might think you’ve forgotten about them and it’s out of sight, out of mind. 

By following up with customers after the apology, you can also catch any further problems without the customer having to get in touch again. Customers will be impressed with your business’s attention to detail and this will make up for the lapse in service they experienced in the first place.

See for yourself

Keeping is the fastest, simplest way to manage customer support right inside Gmail.

Apology letter templates for your customer service team to use

To save you time, we’ve got some templates you can use to craft a professional apology letter.

1. How to apologize to a customer for poor service

There might be a time when a customer has received substandard service from one of your customer service agents. Perhaps the employee was impatient with them or lost their temper. Either way, the customer is mad and complaining about the service experience to your team.

Here’s how to apologize for falling short in service:

Dear [customer name],

I’m sorry to find out that you had a bad experience 
with one of our customer service representatives. 
Let me just apologize on behalf of everyone at 
[company name] and express my deepest regret for 
the upset this has caused you. 

We’ve taken steps to provide your feedback to the employee
in question and disciplined them for their actions. I can 
assure you that our entire customer service team is frequently 
coached on how to behave with customers, but your recent incident 
has brought to light that there is a gap in their training. 
In order to prevent more incidents like yours happening again, 
we’re sending the team for more training. 

We’d like to gift you with [enter gift] in order to show how sorry 
we are and ensure there are no hard feelings. We hope that y
ou’ll continue to honor us with your business in the future 
and that we see you again soon. 

If you’d like to provide us with feedback on how we’ve handled t
his incident, please follow this link [enter link]. 
Alternatively, if you’d like to talk to us about anything else 
then just hit reply to this email or call us on [contact number]. 

Warmest wishes,

[Your name]
[Your title]

2. How to apologize to a customer for long wait time

In another instance, a customer may be unhappy because they had to wait a long time to get a reply from one of your service reps. The average wait time for customers calling your help center is 20 seconds for 80% of calls, while email is 100% of queries within four hours. If your business takes longer than this, then customers could start to get angry.

Here’s how to apologize for keeping your customer waiting:

Dear [customer name],

I’m so sorry to hear of the regrettable incident where you 
were forced to wait [insert time] on the phone for our business 
to answer your. This is not at all up to our business’s usual 
standard of service and should never have happened. We realize 
that your time is precious and you should not have to wait this 
long to speak to someone from our team. 

In order to prevent this happening again, we are reviewing our 
staffing levels so we can have more agents available to answer 
queries such as yours. We were experiencing a particularly high 
volume of calls when you tried contacting us which resulted in 
the long wait time. That’s completely our fault for not providing 
adequate cover. 

To make up for the inconvenience, I’d like to offer you this 
complimentary voucher of [insert offer] that you can redeem on any 
of our products and services. I hope if you need to contact us again 
you will have a better experience. 

To provide feedback on how your query has been handled, 
please follow this link [insert link]. Alternatively, 
if you’d like to talk to us about anything else, just 
reply to this email. 

Best wishes,

[Your name]
[Your title]

3. How to apologize to a customer for wrong delivery

It happens to the best of us – your customer has received the wrong item and they’re angry and disappointed because they wanted their delivery by a specific date. Your shipping department has slipped up and mixed up the orders so now your customer is complaining to the business.

Here’s how to apologize when your business has shipped the wrong order:

Dear [customer name],

I am so terribly sorry that you have received the wrong order. 
You ordered a [insert item] and instead you received a [insert item]. 

This mistake was due to a mix-up in our shipping department 
which resulted in you being sent the wrong order. 
We are currently reviewing our processes to ensure that 
an incident of this nature never happens again. 

I’d like to offer you a full refund for your order as well as 
shipping a replacement item which should arrive within 
[insert business days]. Please also accept this gift 
voucher [insert voucher] as a token of our appreciation 
for doing business with us. 

Once again, I’m so sorry for the mix-up which has now 
caused a delay in receiving your order. Your order will 
be fulfilled soon. 

If you’d like to reach out again, don’t hesitate to reply to this 
email or call [contact number]. 

Yours sincerely, 

[Your name]
[Your title]

4. How to apologize to a generally unsatisfied customer

You may have a complaint from a customer who has had a bad experience with your company, such as a product arriving damaged, a bug in your software, or some other problem. Your business has fallen short of the standard of service that the customer expected, and they are disappointed with you.

Here’s how to apologize to an unsatisfied customer:

Dear [customer name],

Thank you for reaching out to us about the issue you recently 
experienced with [product, service or company]. It must have 
caused you significant distress and for that we deeply apologize. 

You expected [describe how the experience was supposed to go], 
and instead you experienced [briefly describe the issue]. 
This is not good enough, and we have failed to meet the standard 
of service that you deserve as a valued customer of our business. 

After investigating the issue, we have determined that it was 
caused by [explain how the problem occurred]. This was due 
to a fault on our part which has now been identified and we 
have taken steps to correct it. [Briefly explain how you will 
prevent the issue happening again]. 

In order to make up for the inconvenience we have caused you, 
please accept this [voucher or refund]. 

If you have time, please register your feedback about how we 
have handled this situation by following this link [enter link]. 
Alternatively, just reply to this email if you want to reach out 
about anything else. 

Kind regards, 

[Your name]
[Your title]

3 sample apology letters to customers

United Airlines

United Airlines wrote an apology letter to their customers that was from the CEO. This was following an incident when a customer had been aggressively removed from a flight. A video of the man being pulled off the plane went viral online and customers were furious. In the letter, the CEO said that he felt ashamed and offered his most profound apologies. He promised that nothing like this would ever happen again and that United would strive to make this right.

United Apology Letter

Caskers

Caskers sent their customers an email in error and they sent the following lighthearted message to apologize for the mistake. They explain that they’ve been having technical problems but that they’re working to fix them. And in the meantime, they offer their customers a discount on their products to make up for the incident.

Caskers Letter

Zocdoc

Zocdoc wrote this apology letter to a customer when her appointment was canceled on the system. The customer service rep immediately apologizes for the cancellation and states how they want the customer to be treated in an ideal situation. They offer reparation for the situation in the form of an Amazon giftcard, which shows the business is really sorry.

Zocdoc Letter

How to write an apology email to a customer

Writing an apology email to a customer is very similar to writing a letter. You should follow proper email etiquette and ensure your tone is friendly yet professional. Your customer service apology emails should be short and to the point, and directly address the customer’s concerns.

Follow these steps:

  • Give thought and attention to the subject line – make it short and clear so your customer knows the email is an apology.
  • Make your apology email simple – don’t use corporate-speak or long words that will confuse your customer.
  • Write like a human – customers don’t want to feel they are interacting with a robot when they see your apology email.
  • Proofread your email before sending – there’s nothing worse than an apology email full of typos and grammatical errors.

Wrapping up

An apology letter is your business’s opportunity to make amends with upset customers and retain them for the future. While mistakes can and do happen, it’s important to take ownership of the problem and express your deepest remorse for the trouble you have caused the customer.

When customers receive a genuine apology letter from a business, they are much more likely to forgive errors and to do business with them again. If you don’t apologize, customers are left to assume the business doesn’t care and that they should start shopping elsewhere. It takes virtually no effort to apologize to a customer but the results can be astounding.

Even if your business has made a mistake, an apology letter means it’s not too late to salvage the situation. 

As you craft your apology letters, above all remember to be genuine. Customers can sense when you really mean it and they will be touched by your sincerity. You’ll connect with customers on a personal level if you write your apology letters from the heart, and make a commitment to do better next time.

See for yourself

Keeping is the fastest, simplest way to manage customer support right inside Gmail.

Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath
Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She is often writing case studies, help documentation, and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at https://awaywithwords.co.