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Business Apology Letter: Example & Analysis

In this example of a business apology letter we see how the ingredients of any perfect apology always remain the same.

However, when it comes to business, fully understanding the implications and consequences of what occurred is paramount to retaining your business relationships.

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In order to fully appreciate the subtleties of crafting the perfect business apology, it's important to always keep in mind your customer's or partner's point of view.

Many businesses never take the time to think through the implications of their error on a customer's business and simply apologize for the mistake.

By not acknowledging the repercussions their initial error may have caused, they commit error No. 2, making it more difficult to mend the relationship.

The table below shows you exactly how the elements of a perfect apology were woven into this well-crafted business letter.

Business Apology Letter Example

Analysis Example: Business Apology Letter


Dear Mr./Ms._______________,

Give a detailed account of the situation with specifics.

We are very sorry that the shipment of goods [Purchase Order No.] that you received on [Specific Date] was defective.

Acknowledge the hurt, damage done and implications on their business.

We understand your disappointment and appreciate the inconvenience this must have caused your organization and all the logistics problems that ensued.

Take full responsibility and make it very clear that you were at fault.

We take full responsibility for the situation.

There is no question that the products we shipped did not meet the very high standards our customers have come to expect and should continue to demand.

Recognize your company's role in the situation with a detailed account of what happened without making excuses.

In our effort to improve the overall quality of our products, we used a new composite material for your order. We have since returned to the original recipe and can assure you that we are in the process of completing more thorough testing and development.

Promise that it won't happen again, how you can ensure that it won't and why it's important that it doesn't.

I can promise you that the highest quality standards will be met in the future because protecting our reputation for delivering the best products on the market is a key priority for us.

As a result, we have changed our processes so that any new materials go through more rigorous testing and meet new standards set forth by our Quality Assurance Department prior to production.

Include a statement of regret.

Again, I apologize for our mistake and regret any inconvenience caused as a result.

Provide a form of restitution or some way of easing the pain caused.

We have already brought in additional staff to expedite the production of a replacement order and guarantee its delivery by the end of this week. We have also asked our shippers to pick up the defective product prior to delivery of the new shipment, in order to free up your warehouse space.

Add a statement that lets the injured party know that you are hoping to continue the relationship.

We look forward to continuing the mutually beneficial relationship that our two companies have shared over the last two years.

Finally, suggest a willingness to do whatever is necessary to correct the situation.

If there is anything else that we can do to minimize your inconvenience in regard to this matter, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.



By breaking down this example of a business apology letter paragraph by paragraph, you can see how easily it can be modified to any situation.

Use the 'Analysis/Notes' to guide you while composing your letter and simply replace the specifics with your own.

The order of the elements is not important however including all of them will go a long way to mending your business relationships when mistakes occur.

Effective Business Apology Letters

What makes a business apology letter effective? Our team was asked by Network World to comment on the effectiveness of ten apologies issued by the CEOs of several major financial, retail and academic institutions.

In each case, an apology letter was sent to customers and clients after the company discovered serious data breaches in their respective information security systems.

In our response, we began by explaining that very few business apologies ever meet the 'perfection' standard, while some less-than-perfect apologies work out just fine (as some of these probably did).

We also noted the fine line between a perfect business apology letter and groveling—JetBlue's apology (they've issued many), which we discuss extensively on the site, is a great example of getting very close to the perfection mark without going over the line.

We cite the JetBlue apology because, while it isn't a case of an information (IT) security breach, it does provide an excellent set of benchmarks for identifying strong, credible and effective business apology strategies that meet most of the ingredients we emphasize throughout this site.

The letter issued by JetBlue along with our analysis should help readers understand why we consider it to be one of the best business apology letters out there.

Bad, Poor & Ineffective Business Apology Letters

Rather than provide a general assessment based on some idealized standard of the business apologies Network World asked us to review, we decided instead to evaluate each business apology letter in relation to the others.

Although some of the errors/mistakes made by these companies were more serious than others it was still possible to evaluate all of them on the same 1-10 scale.

Common Threads In The CEO Apologies

With the exception of a press release issued by ChoicePoint, none of the ten business apologies were very good.

Many of the CEOs made the same standard mistake—they passed-the-buck by assigning most of the responsibility to other forces or players, and emphasized 'regret' rather than expressing a sincere and credible apology for their company's failure to meet their customers' reasonable security needs and expectations.

None of the business apologies acknowledged any real responsibility for the loss of security, and none (except for one) offered ANY reasonable compensation.

While compensation options may not be terribly obvious for many of the companies, an offer to at least consider some form of restitution is always available and should be a key ingredient of any standard business apology letter.

Also, very few of these apologies explained in any detail what the company was prepared to do to prevent a re-occurrence.

Finally, the most serious yet common impediment to an effective business apology letter (illustrated through these ten examples) is the often-exaggerated concern CEOs (and their lawyers) have about litigation. This may explain the uniformly very low scores.

Apology Assessments & Results

The maximum score that we gave was 7/10 and the minimum was a -3.

Yes, that is a negative three—the recipient is Boeing President and CEO Jim McNerney for an unfortunate and misguided apology email he sent to his employees after a laptop containing sensitive and personal data of current and former employees was stolen.

There is much to learn from seeing how 10 different organizations handle a similar issue. As you will see from our reviews, these CEOs were either ill-prepared, received poor advice, or just didn't care.

Read excerpts and our reviews of each business apology letter at Network World as well as Brodkin's full article on security breaches and the not-so-effective apologies that followed.

Need more help? Visit our article on how to write an apology letter.

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