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  You are Here: Home :: Business Apologies :: Business Apology Letters  

Business Apology Letters:
One of Many Ways to Apologize

What is the best way to apologize? Is it better to write a business apology letter, send a quick note or email, extend an apology over the phone, or speak in person?

The right judgment call will depend on your particular situation. In most cases, a well-crafted business apology letter is the best approach, especially when the relationship between the parties involved is not a 'personal' one.

A friendly warning: you should NEVER assume the relationship is personal and friendly unless you are absolutely sure.  An apology based on the wrong assumption can be potentially harmful and counterproductive.

Written apologies give you the time to choose the right words and allow you to make sure that all the 'pieces' of the perfect business apology are in place. In addition, archiving your own sample business apology letters on your computer allows you to quickly respond to similar situations in the future as they arise.

Finally, a written business apology can be sent three different ways, each conveying a slightly distinct (but meaningful) measure of seriousness and respect. 

A priority post letter, for example, conveys more importance than regular mail, and regular mail more than an email.  Although the letter's content may be identical, and although all three approaches inherently highlight the seriousness of the situation by providing the injured party with a tangible piece of evidence that acknowledges mistakes and the inconvenience suffered, some situations require additional signals.

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On the other hand, if the parties involved have more than strictly a business relationship then the manner in which the apology is delivered needs to be looked at more closely..

For example, if a customer frequents the business premises on a regular basis and a friendship (no matter how close) has grown as a result, then a verbal apology by phone or in person may be more appropriate. In fact, if a more formal approach is used it may signal to the customer that their assumptions about the nature of the relationship are wrong.

Choosing whether to apologize by telephone or in person is largely dependant upon timing and geography. Assuming the apology’s recipient is within reasonable geographic proximity the decision should be made based on when you will next see the person. In some cases, depending on the nature of the error, taking the time to make a longer trip in person may be the right thing to do.

If the delay is reasonable and the cause for the apology is not too severe then waiting until the next time you see one another is acceptable. However, if one or neither of these conditions is true then picking up the phone as soon as possible and extending the apology is recommended.

If a similar situation occurs, but the injured party in this case is not a customer but instead a partner or vendor, then the verbal apology is still appropriate and should be followed up with a business apology letter.

This two-tiered approach helps to re-establish the business relationship after the incident. It shows the injured party that you understand the rules and boundaries of business, and that the business relationship that you share is separate from any personal one that you may have.

So tailor the manner in which you deliver your apology with the same care that you would take in writing your business apology letters. Think about the situation and the parties involved. Consider the best way to make amends and how soon you should apologize.

Learn about timing an apology correctly.

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