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
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 is all about relationshipsrelationships 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.
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.
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.
As for the apology itself, the guidelines for any perfect apology remain
||give a detailed account of the situation
||acknowledge the hurt or damage done
||take full responsibility
||recognize your role or the company’s in the situation
||include a statement of regret
||ask for forgiveness
||promise that it won't happen again
||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 …
Or, return to the Perfect Apology Home Page