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
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
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
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.
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 apologys 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
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
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