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  You are Here: Home :: Business Apologies  

Need the Perfect Business Apology?

Extending the perfect business apology can be slightly more complex than apologizing in our personal life. Regardless of how the apology is delivered, whether it be through a business apology letter or verbal communication, the basic principles are the same. However, the content of the apology itself, the timing, and the manner in which it is delivered really depends on the parties involved.

In business, there are simply more factors at play.
Although moral reasons exist equally for both personal and business apologies, strategic reasons for extending an apology are more common in business, and are based purely on business decisions.

Remember the old saying "the customer is always right"? This is a time tested customer service philosophy that virtually every successful company adheres to. What's the end result of such a policy?

A series of business apologies that are extended by a company or its representatives regardless of who is at fault. These are apologies that are offered for rational strategic reasons related to customer acquisition, customer retention, and customer loyalty.

However, when carefully crafted, the same end results can be achieved even when the company has made a mistake. On the other hand, a poorly crafted, badly timed or non-existent apology will lose this and many other customers.

In many cases, especially in regard to customer complaints, the perfect customer apology letter can help retain customers and present you with an opportunity to build customer loyalty.


Business Apology Survey Button


Business is all about relationships—relationships with new customers, old customers, clients, vendors, and with the larger community. To understand how you can tailor an apology to strengthen or rebuild one of these relationships you need to look at your particular circumstances. And to do this well, the following three strategies will come in handy.

First, you need to look at the reason behind your business apology and who has been affected by the situation.

Second, you also need to determine the most appropriate way to apologize and when that apology should be given.

Third, you need to ask and answer the following four basic questions:

1.What are you apologizing for?
2.Who are you apologizing to?
3.How do you apologize?
4.When should you apologize?

Your answers to each of these questions will determine the perfect business apology for your situation, like “Vendor B” did in this sample business apology letter.

 Business Apology Icons

As for the apology itself, the guidelines for any perfect apology remain the same.

Apology Bullet   give a detailed account of the situation
Apology Bullet   acknowledge the hurt or damage done
Apology Bullet   take full responsibility
Apology Bullet   recognize your role or the company’s in the situation
Apology Bullet   include a statement of regret
Apology Bullet   ask for forgiveness
Apology Bullet   promise that it won't happen again
Apology Bullet   provide a form of restitution, if possible

Don't forget the importance of timing when delivering an apology AND beware of the common traps that many small businesses fall into.

When giving an account of the situation, only include the details of the specific event. In other words, do not talk about broader related issues. Remember that the apology is all about the recipient and the damage they have suffered, and not your business situation.

Don't make excuses or include any comments that could elicit a "that isn't my problem" type of response, as in "my assistant was home sick that day" or "I never saw the memo".

Finally, think about a proactive approach when apologizing to help solidify relationships with your customers. We show you how one airline, through an unprompted apology letter, leverages unforeseen problems to build on their loyalty program and strengthen their customer base.

You can also take a look at this masterfully crafted sample apology letter sent to us by one of our readers.

One final but important note: If the incident could result in ANY form of legal action or liability with ANY party then delaying a response to seek the legal advice of an attorney is VERY prudent. Learn more about the legal implications of a business apology.

Still looking for more? Our apology research section includes several case studies on corporate and business apologies.  You should also check out a Q & A session on corporate apologies during our interview with thestreet.com.

Now let's investigate your situation

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