If Something Went Wrong: 5 Rules for Writing an Apology Letter

If Something Went Wrong: 5 Rules for Writing an Apology Letter

Mistakes happen in business. When they do, here’s five rules for writing an apology letter to communicate that you are truly sorry for what happened.

In the business world, as in all areas of life, sometimes one makes a mistake. Some mistakes are insignificant. Others are more serious. The serious ones will require an apology of some sort. One avenue available is the apology letter.

Wherever you are in the United States or elsewhere, writing an apology letter is an important skill to develop and master. If you need help, you can turn to a small business SEO service. That is but one of many services we provide. We are experts at the craft To demonstrate, we offer the following 5 rules for writing an apology letter:

1. Make sure your apology letter is sincere.

2. Make sure you are truly sorry.

3. Look at things from the customer’s point-of-view.

4. Make sure you admit your mistakes.

5. Provide for a number of solutions.

There are also a few things you should avoid doing. Let’s discuss each of these in turn. But first, let’s explain why you should apologize.

An Apology Letter

The Reasons You Should Apologize to Your Customers

No one enjoys apologizing. No one wants to admit they’ve done something wrong. However, not apologizing can be a big mistake that makes matters worse. If you make a habit of hurting customer feelings, they can fester into an ever-increasing resentment.

But there is more to it than that. As the popular job seeking site Indeed.com puts it, “Apology letters are important in the workplace because they create a physical or digital record of your admitting to and attempting to rectify a mistake or failure.” Why is this important?

A permanent record, be it digital or physical, can be used to help track errors, for one, but more importantly, they help stake out those employees who have the integrity to own up to their mistakes. And that is valuable information for the employer.

Of course, they can also be used by the employer to weed out those employees who are just way too error-prone and just make costly mistakes too often. Again, valuable information for the employer, and it does make the apology a little more risky.

Make Sure Your Apology Letter Is Sincere and Personal

The first step in any apology essays you write is to put that critical apologize sentence near the beginning. This puts both the writer and the recipient in the proper emotional space. This serves to keep the recipient from becoming confused and also helps to keep the writer focused and on point.

The next important facet of your letter is to be concise. Don’t ramble. Don’t exaggerate. And don’t be overly sentimental. Be sincere and respectful, and above all, be professional. You’re trying to repair a relationship, after all.

Also, when apologizing to a customer, you have to recognize that you are in the inferior position. As they say, “The customer is always right.” That would apply if your customer were to place an order with your business. It also applies here as well here as well. You are trying to win them back. The best way to do that is to be authentic. Don’t grovel. But don’t put on airs, either. 

A Dog Making An Apology

Make Sure You Are Truly Sorry

This is part of being authentic. Simply say, “I’m sorry,” without caveats, excuses, or exemptions. No ‘but’, no ‘ifs’, or anything else. Don’t try to shift blame to someone else – that makes you look insincere, weak, or immature (take your pick). Show a little vulnerability and ask to be forgiven. That can do wonders by communicating that you really are truly sorry.

Make sure you apologize for the consequences your actions brought on. That demonstrates your awareness of the ramifications of what you did, and how it impacted your customer. As wikihow puts it, “You want what you say to be specific to your situation so that the person you're apologizing to knows that you really understand what happened and why it was bad.“

An important aspect of this is your actual comportment toward the situation. Do you truly feel sorry? Or are you just trying to save face for business reasons? Unless the apology is truly heartfelt, it might be better to wait until you really feel the appropriate emotion in the correct measure. Prepare it. Write it. Look it over. And feel it. Otherwise, it’s a sham.

Look at Things from the Customer’s Point-of-View.

It’s also a good idea to describe exactly what happened, how it happened, and where you goofed. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and describe to them how you failed. They need to know that you know what went wrong and why it was hurtful or damaging.

As we said above, don’t shift blame. Even if it should cost you your customer (it may), even if they refuse to place an order with you ever again, you will keep your integrity. You also might want to let them know that it wasn’t deliberate. You didn’t want to hurt them.

For example, suppose you are in the business of selling office equipment, and one of your devices was returned to a business client after being “repaired” only to fail again and ruin a presentation. In your letter you might say something like …

“I realize that the failure of our product ruined your presentation and led to negative consequences to your business. Please accept my humble apology on behalf of our company and accept this gesture to make some limited restitution. Although we can do nothing to salvage your presentation, we can replace the device at no cost to you and give you a 5 year extension to your warranty at no charge. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience.”

It’s direct. It’s to the point. And it tries to rectify the damage that the client/customer suffered.

Make Sure You Admit Your Mistakes

This next rule is a critical one. Admit your mistakes. This shows those you’ve wronged that you can take responsibility for the things you do. Own the error. Don’t try to shift blame away. This will help you come across as sincere as well as humble.

It also means that your customer is getting your side of the story from you and not a third party who could distort it. It also means that as you reach out to the affected party you will have a better chance of resolving the issue as quickly as possible.

Communicate authentic emotion. Coming across as stiff and overly formal will only serve as a turn off. But if you admit your mistake with sincere repentance, you will be more likely to win the other person over.

And remember, even if you had good reasons that justify your actions, you still may have wronged someone else. Owning that and taking responsibility for it is part of the whole apology process.

An Apology Note

Provide for a Number of Solutions

The last rule in this list is to provide for a number of solutions to help rectify the issue. You should be organized enough and thoughtful enough to try to at least ameliorate the damage you caused as well as prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. Here’s a few ideas for you going in:

  • ·Make a Plan: Don’t lose sight of what went wrong. Take the time to work out the details and ensure you fully understand everything. Let your customer know the way/s you will fix the problem/s.
  • Give a Solution/s that Creates Change: Don’t offer some impotent gesture that will amount to nothing. Make something happen and establish guidelines should the error recur. Then come up with a backup plan or two. Give the customer some options to choose from. After all, he/she is the one who will be affected by it.
  • Only Promise What You Can Deliver: Don’t go overboard. You want to make sure that what you decide to do is achievable. If you fail to deliver, it will make that so-called humble apology as well as future apologies ring hollow.

Taking these steps will help show your customer that you realize that you owe them for what you did. It also demonstrates that you put serious effort and thought into how to fix the problem. Hopefully, it will garner a reply to your apology email and win you back your valued customer.

Things to Avoid When You Apologize

Now that we’ve covered the basic rules of apologizing to customers, let’s touch on some things to avoid. We’ve already mentioned some of these, but we will repeat them here for emphasis.

Blaming Others in Your Organization: In the end, you are responsible, even if it was one of your employees who messed up. You are the leader of the organization. Don’t try to shift blame away.

Blaming the Injured: Don’t try to lessen your responsibility by shifting it to those you offended, either. Avoid saying things like, “If anyone was offended, I apologize.” Simply say, “To those I offended, I apologize.” Otherwise, it comes off as insincere.

Saying too Much: Don’t go on and on. The more words you write, the less impact each one will have. Say what needs to be said in just a few concise sentences. For example, don’t do anything like this:

“I am so very, very, very sorry that I spilled my soda on your shirt. To make it up to you, I will purchase you an entire closetful of new shirts!”

Some trivial slights can probably be ignored or taken care of verbally at the time they occur. Going overboard will make you look insecure and desperate—which will be very unappealing.

Clicking Send Immediately: For an apology, it’s best to choose your words carefully to make sure you are saying exactly what you want to say and no more. So, when you write your apology essays, don’t send them immediately. Give them a day or two to “marinate.” Come back to it later and see if it still expresses what you want.

If you avoid those pitfalls, you should be well on your way to crafting an excellent apology.


As we said, everyone makes mistakes and crafting effective apologies is an excellent skill to develop—It doesn’t matter if you work in the U.S. or elsewhere across the globe. We hope these rules and tips serve you well in smoothing things over to assuage hurt customer feelings.

Tim Absalikov is the Acting CEO of Lasting Trend Agency. Tim is an expert in technical optimization. He has a deep understanding of SEO, SEM, UX and UI considerations, shopping campaigns, PLA, RLSA, dynamic retargeting, works with E-Commerce and Web Analytics.

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