The perfect customer apology letter can do more than just mend fences, it can also deliver a more loyal customer. Apologizing in business in the right way and at the right time can turn a negative into a positive for any business.
Yes, you can be better off AFTER a mistake is made than you were before the error was committed.
A Customer Service Complaint Scenario
In the sample letter below, there is an issue regarding a billing error to a customer.
The customer notifies the company of the problem. The problem is investigated and the company is found to be at fault and needs to apologize.
They can deliver the business apology by phone, in person, by email or letter but most importantly, they need to make things right while building on their existing relationship.
They've chosen a two-tiered approach. They will call the customer first to advise them of their findings as soon as possible. Then follow up with a customer apology letter to demonstrate the company's commitment to making things right and to illustrate that they take the matter seriously.
So what should that letter say and how should they say it?
Sample Apology Letter to A Customer
Dear [Customer Name]
Please accept our sincere apology. We are very sorry to have charged you twice for the same product.
It was clearly a mistake at our end and not one that we take lightly. We can certainly appreciate your shock when seeing double the amount expected on your credit card statement.
NOTE: If the dollar amount was significant then it would be appropriate to include a statement regarding the implications on available credit. The sentence would then read as follows "We can appreciate the shock you must have felt at seeing double the amount you expected charged to your credit card, and the possible implications of our error on your remaining available credit with your financial institution".
I understand from my staff that the error was due to a computer glitch in our automated billing system. As a result of this issue, and in order to prevent this from happening in the future, new procedures are being put in place.
In the meantime, we have credited your account for the appropriate amount (include specific dollar value and add a percentage to cover possible interest charges and inconvenience if the dollar amount was large). We hope that this will be sufficient to correct the error and address any inconvenience this may have caused you.
We thank you for bringing this to our attention. It will help us improve our operations and services. We very much appreciate your business and hope that you will remain a valued customer.
If there are any other issues that need to be addressed, please don't hesitate to contact me.
John Doe President
Benefits of a Well Crafted Letter of Apology
What's the end result? How does the recipient feel after receiving this type of customer apology letter?
The customer is happy to have the issue resolved and will appreciate the fact that the company took responsibility, acknowledged the error, made no excuses, and understood the hurt it caused.
The initial verbal apology by a customer service representative satisfies the customer's immediate need for resolution and deescalates the situation.
But it's the letter of apology that solidifies the customer's relationship with the company and can potentially turn a negative situation into a positive.
Finally, there is an inherent element of importance brought to the issue, by a senior executive taking the time to apologize PERSONALLY and in writing while thanking them for bringing it to their attention.
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Customer Apology Letters Build Loyalty
How will the customer likely view the company now? How has this customer apology letter built-on an existing relationship and effectively increased customer loyalty?
The customer's faith in the company is restored, and perhaps even stronger than it was before. They're able to put aside the issue and appreciate the fact that companies make mistakes, just like people do, and that should a problem arise in the future it will be quickly resolved by this particular organization.
The customer now feels IMPORTANT to the company and realizes that the company wants to hear both the good and the bad from them as a VALUABLE source of information for improving their services.
This type of customer apology letter will not only help you retain your customer but may even improve the relationship that you have with them and potentially increase the loyalty they feel towards your company.
In our example, we used a billing error, had the issue been poor service or any other type of business mistake, the basic principles and elements of the letter remain the same.
Be clear, take responsibility, appreciate the customer's point of view and inconvenience caused, provide some form of restitution if appropriate, and apologize.
Important Take-Aways for Customer Apologies
Deal with the issue in a TIMELY manner. Not responding quickly and decisively can end up requiring two apologies, one for the issue itself and the other for the time it took to respond—the timing issue compounds the 'negative' of the situation and can have more severe implications on your business than the original issue itself. It is critical to understand the importance of timing an apology correctly.
By having a principal in the company or other senior staff sign the letter of apology to your customer, you signal to them that they and the issue, are important.
TIP: Save and categorize all of your business apology letters and modify them as necessary for each new incident. This ensures your customers will always receive a quick response because you won't need to spend time composing an apology letter from scratch each and every time.
What approach you use to deliver an apology can have significant impact on its effectiveness. Face-to-face, by phone, email or snail mail, learn how to determine the best approach for delivering a business apology either verbally or through a customer apology letter.