An apology email is something that nobody wants to write. You do everything in your power to keep your customers and subscribers happy. But mistakes happen. Even the place where your ad is positioned can make a difference. Statista’s study from 2020 showed that 47% of respondents formed a negative brand perception because an ad was placed next to controversial content. You can’t predict all these things that could go wrong, so you need to know how to mitigate their impact when they do.
A good apology can help your brand bounce back to normal as if nothing ever happened.
So how do you write an apology email that works? What do you include in the message, and when do you send it?
We’ll give you all the details!
A business or an email marketer sends apology email messages after any kind of mistake or undesirable occurrence to make up for the situation and offer a solution.
Think of it as an “oops” message that explains what happened in complete transparency. Then, the sender will offer a solution or anything to make the customer happy again (hello, special discounts!).
If you’re wondering whether or not you need to send an apology message, the answer is always YES! This approach shows that you’re aware of the mistake and care enough to fix it. When people get this kind of email, they form an impression that you’ll do everything to prevent these mistakes from happening again. If you ignore the situation, you miss out on a great opportunity to recover your brand’s reputation.
There are three main reasons why a decent apology is a good idea:
Transparency fosters open communication and trust. When there’s something a business should apologize for, chances are the audience will learn about it sooner or later. If you’re the first one to share the details transparently, you’ll strengthen the relationship between the brand and its customers.
No matter the issue, your customers (and competitors) will respect you more for owning up to it.
Instead of blaming someone else for security issues or any other problem that affects your customers, you can simply apologize. That’s the most elegant way to maintain the connection between your brand and its users.
Apology emails are a good thing. But you shouldn’t start writing them right away for some minor issues that nobody knows about. If a single customer faces a prolonged delivery, you’ll respond to them individually. Save apology emails for serious issues. Here are a few examples of situations when apology email messages are appropriate:
Let’s say an online coffee store advertised a promo: you get a set of coffee mugs with each order above $40. But the content marketer forgot to include an important detail: you won’t get the gift if you use a promo code. Now the store gets hundreds of orders with discount codes that their customers legitimately used but end up disappointed because they expected something more. This is the right moment to send an apology message with an explanation. Don’t forget to offer another discount code to make the customers reconsider the decision: “I’m never ordering from this store again!”
Misplaced or invalid characters in the URL will lead the recipients to an error page. This is a marketing disaster: somebody took the action you hoped for (they clicked the button) but ended up frustrated. This is a classic situation when an apology message is appropriate. Of course, you include the right link this time.
Offensive language can be unintentional. With marketing messages, it usually is. For example, we often use a phrase after taking a break from newsletters: Long time no see. Did you know the phrase was considered offensive and could make racially marginalized people uncomfortable? The same goes for other commonly used phrases, such as Hip Hooray or No can do.
When you realize you’ve used offensive phrases without any intention, sending out an apology is the right thing to do.
A hacker’s attack that led to a data privacy breach is a legit reason to be angry. The attack might have resulted in spam emails with dangerous attachments or viruses to all recipients. The Bing redirect virus has caused severe damage to many brands’ reputations that way. The recipients will realize what happened, and most of them wouldn’t blame your brand. But it’s highly recommended to inform your audience about what happened, apologize for the inconvenience, and explain how they can remove the virus.
Parcels get lost in transit, and you’ll handle those issues individually. But if multiple orders get messed up, you’re about to see many negative reviews that will affect your brand’s reputation. That calls for an apology email ASAP.
Are you used to writing marketing messages by a template? If you’re looking for a structure to follow, these are the things to include in an apology message:
Nobody wants to read a lengthy explanation that sounds like making excuses just to see a careless apology at the end. Say “sorry” right from the subject line and at the beginning of your message.
Here’s an example of Omstars including the apology in the subject line:
After the direct apology, you can explain what happened. Do not make excuses, and don’t blame anyone else. Own up to the mistake; that’s how you’ll write a more respectful message.
Let’s say you realized that your previous message was offensive to a particular group. Here’s how you can own up to the issue:
We realize that our tone was offensive. Although it was not written with any intention to cause offense, we understand our mistake. In the future, we will make a commitment to get more informed about improper language.
Now that your newsletter recipients know the issue, what should they do about it? If it was a data privacy breach, what steps should they take to protect their data if it was a data privacy breach?
This is the plan of action that MyFitnessPal recommended in such a situation:
Discount codes, gifts with each order, and free subscriptions may make up for the damage. If you’re apologizing for flawed shipments or product issues, always issue appropriate compensation!
Here’s a brief example you can use in such a case:
We are sorry to inform you that several items we’ve shipped over the past month were damaged due to improper packaging. If you faced such an unfortunate situation, please contact us. We will issue a refund for all items that arrived in less-than-perfect condition.
Wrap up the (short) message with another “sorry” and ask for feedback.
Let’s see what a message would look like if you follow the steps recommended above.
We made a mistake with a misleading promo, and we want to make it up to you.
In our August promo, we forgot to mention that your order won’t be eligible for a gift (coffee mugs set) if you use a discount code or combine it with any other promo. If you expected coffee mugs but got your order shipped without them, we’re sorry that happened.
We want to offer a special discount code for your next order. You will get the gift regardless of the order’s value.
We’re sorry for these inconveniences. If you want to return your order and get a refund, feel free to get in touch!
Well, that’s embarrassing!
We accidentally sent out the VIP offer to email subscribers who still haven’t chosen any of our plans. Please note that not everyone is eligible for that promo.
Don’t worry; we’ll make it up for the mistake. Here’s an offer for 50% off on all our plans. You only need to choose one!
Our servers made a mistake this evening and sent messages to a few extra recipients. Please disregard the previous message, as it contains an offer for new customers.
As our VIP member, you’re still accumulating loyalty points with each order. As a sign of appreciation, we’re adding 10 extra loyalty points to your user account. Hope to see you soon!
After receiving multiple complaints regarding faulty shipments, we investigated the issue. The discovery was devastating: the packaging company failed to commit to the expected quality standards. We realize how inconvenient the matter was to everyone who ordered a product and expected it in perfect condition.
We want to offer refunds or product replacements to anyone who received faulty items. Our customer support center is working extra hours to attend to all affected customers!
Thank you for choosing us for your Black Friday shopping spree!
We’ve seen record orders over the weekend. Our warehouse teams are working hard to dispatch all orders. There will be some minor delays, and we are sorry about that. Feel free to check your order status anytime through Order History in your account.
I am so sorry for canceling the webinar and all one-on-one consultations for two weeks. Unfortunately, I have an urgent health situation that’s not serious but has to be dealt with right away. I will see you soon on my platform. Expect info on the rescheduled webinar next week! Until then, you can use a promo code for 20% off on my website!
You may have noticed that the link from our previous email didn’t work. Oops! Sorry about that!
We want to apologize for any inconvenience we caused. To see our new products, please visit our website. The link works now; it's a promise! Hint: you’ll find a special discount when you follow it!
We’re sorry to share embarrassing news!
We faced a serious issue with our live chat system yesterday, so our users weren’t able to contact us for 24 hours. Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that caused.
The live chat works great now, so feel free to get in touch!
We’re late to realize that the promotional messages we’ve been sending out lately haven’t gotten through to all subscribers on time. You might have been receiving info on promos that were no longer active.
There was a glitch in our database, which we sorted out as soon as we became aware of it.
We’re very sorry you missed the great offers that you might be interested in. Here’s a code for a 30% discount across the entire website!
We sent an email message today, thanking you for filling out our Customer Satisfaction Survey. This was sent in error to several recipients who never participated in the survey. We are very sorry for any confusion our messages may have caused.
Please accept our apology, and feel free to participate in the survey while it’s still open!
Remember this: it’s never too late to say sorry. But don’t test that saying! If you’re late to become aware of an issue, it’s okay to send the message at that moment. But no matter the mistake, it’s essential to own up to it as soon as possible.
For example, let’s say you messed up the email lists and sent a loyalty promo to the wrong recipients (subscribers who have never spent money on your site). Now you have to tell them that the promo isn’t valid for them. Before sending an apology message, dozens will use the code. It’s important to send an apology with the correct information and a new discount code that would avoid more frustration. Right away!
Here’s a template for an apology you can send within hours:
We are sorry for the message you mistakenly received from us a few hours ago. Please disregard that email. We sincerely apologize for any confusion we might have caused.
This is the most important rule of making an apology: be honest! Do not try to relativize the matter by focusing on something else and wrapping up the message with “By the way, oops!”
Keep the message simple, short, and unmistakably honest. Explain what happened in the most precise possible way, so you won’t leave any room for assumptions.
Here’s how Dropbox did it:
If you got to the point of writing an apology email, you’re not glad about it. But no matter how severe the issue is for your brand, a depressive tone is the last thing your audience wants to see. Infusing some humor is fine (if the situation allows for it).
Oh! We sent you the wrong email with a discount code not valid for your user category. Here’s another promo for you. It’s a great one, too!
See? No big deal! Here’s another example of an apology with a healthy dose of humor in it:
Do you know that message that led you to an error page? Yeah, that was us! Here’s the correct link. Go ahead; click on it! A surprise discount awaits you on our site!
Reputation is the main reason for sending apology emails in the first place. You faced something that could damage it, and you’re doing your best to maintain the brand’s good image in the customers’ eyes.
Your community will appreciate the transparency in your apology, but that might not be enough. You have to be result-oriented. What solutions will you offer? You're lucky if things can be solved with a simple discount code. But what happens with data privacy breaches and similar serious issues? Your brand will remain reputable only if you take steps toward providing greater protection to your users. It’s important to do something to prevent the same thing from happening again. Include information about those steps in the apology email, so your customers will feel safe to keep using your products or services.
Focus on your customers and acknowledge the fact that they went through inconveniences! Empathizing with them is crucial, especially if you unintentionally used offensive language!
“We understand our previous message was insensitive, and we’re deeply sorry.“
Instead of focusing on “we didn’t mean for the message to sound that way,” focus on the fact that it was offensive. Acknowledge the customer’s viewpoint, respect it, and sincerely apologize. Remember: it’s not your place to tell someone if they should feel offended or not.
That being said, you should also clarify your position after acknowledging the audience’s stance. You can do that in simple wording:
We never intended to cause any offense, distress, or confusion. Please accept our sincere apologies.
This part is critical if you want to use the issue to build an even stronger relationship with your audience. If anyone faces inconveniences, a “sorry” or even a discount code won’t be enough. Some of your customers will want to contact you directly. Offer them a chance to send feedback, and clearly say that you expect it in the message.
By providing an effective communication channel, you show that you care about your customers’ opinions and are doing your best to ensure a better experience in the future.
You don’t have to complicate this part. Use simple wording:
Don’t hesitate to contact our Customer Support team with further questions or suggestions. We’ll do our best to answer all messages immediately.
In addition to putting your Customer Support system at their disposal, you can also offer a feedback survey to your recipients. It may be easier for some of them to answer multiple choice questions than to write elaborate messages describing their complaints.
If you can take the time to answer this feedback survey, we’ll appreciate your input! The survey will only take 5-10 minutes of your time.
As soon as you’re done with the apologies and explanations, you should offer something that improves the situation. If your previous message contained a virus due to a hacker’s attack, explain how your users can get rid of it. If it was a data privacy breach, they recommend changing essential passwords. If it’s any issue that could be improved with a gift or a discount code, by all means, send one!
Mistakes happen in email marketing campaigns, and that’s okay. We shouldn’t stress over them, but we should still have an action plan. When you need to send an apology email, you shouldn’t make any delays. It’s easy to choose one of the 1000+ Mailmunch email templates, add adequate text, and send messages in a matter of minutes. The tool’s drag-and-drop builder is great for customizing all types of email templates, including those that have the purpose of recovering your brand’s reputation.
A voracious reader and a music lover, Ammar has been writing engaging and informative content for over 3 years for B2B and B2C markets. With a knack for writing SEO-optimized content, Ammar ensures the results speak for themselves.