How to Apologise to a Customer: Our Top Tips with Examples

We all get things wrong sometimes, but admitting this and dealing with issues correctly isn’t always easy. Here’s how to apologise to customers with professionalism, speed and accuracy.

Whether you’re apologising for long wait times, poor customer service or product dissatisfaction, it can be nerve-wracking trying to find the correct apology methods for your customers when you receive a complaint. However, understanding how and why you should say sorry, regardless of who is in the wrong should always be an essential part of your customer service strategy.

In this guide, we’ll offer our top tips for making amends and some tried-and-tested template responses to take into your own operation.

Why You Should Apologise to Customers

Saying sorry to customer is important for a variety of reasons – the biggest of which is stabilising your relationship with the customer after a service failure.

A phenomenon called the service recovery paradox refers to situations in which customers have an issue with their product or service, but once the problem is resolved effectively with an acceptable apology, the customer is left with a more positive impression. By showing that your business can positively recover from a failure on your behalf, the customer will be left feeling more satisfied than if they hadn’t experienced an issue in the first instance.

An effective apology will also show your customers that you care about them. It shows your level of attentiveness to their needs, alongside proving that you value each customer’s feelings towards the business. By showing consideration and empathy, your business and representatives will be rewarded with customers that are loyal to your brand.

How to Apologise to a Customer: Our Top Tips

Approaching a customer apology shouldn’t feel like entering dangerous territory – discover our expert top tips below on how to handle these interactions.

Get Full Context and Acknowledge the Issue

The first step of the apology should be to gain a full understanding of the issue as quickly as possible. Don’t waste time asking irrelevant questions or trying to make amends without understanding what has actually gone wrong – instead, spend the first few minutes of the interaction finding out all the relevant information. This could involve asking for personal information or order numbers, so be sure to handle the information correctly. Agents and representatives have a responsibility to protect customer information and data which should be maintained at all times. This becomes especially important when a customer might be upset or frustrated, since the last thing you’ll want is to worsen it.

Acknowledging the issue and taking responsibility is also important at this stage. Once you understand the problem, the customer should feel that they’ve passed their concerns or issues into your capable hands. They should never be made to feel like the issue is their fault, regardless of the cause or origin of the problem. Taking the popular approach of the customer always being right can work well here.

Be Empathetic

An unhappy customer typically requires an empathetic approach that acknowledges their feelings and offers solutions. To do this, try putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about how you would feel in their situation. This should help you craft the perfect empathetic response that targets the emotions they’re feeling. For example, a customer upset about long waiting times will likely feel forgotten and undervalued. In an empathetic apology for this situation, it would typically be best to use active listening skills and respond with language that makes the customer feel valued and important.

Be Personal and Sincere

Using cookie-cutter and overly templated responses can lead to the customer feeling like they didn’t receive a sincere or proper apology. Instead, agents and representatives should be personal in their responses to ensure that the customer feels understood and listened to.

Be sure to address the customer by their name and refer specifically to their situation. If you’re apologising for a lack of customer satisfaction related to your products, then be sure to talk about that product and their experience using the knowledge you’ve established by asking the preliminary questions.

be personal and sincere

Provide a Solution

This is potentially the most important aspect of the apology. Providing a solution of any kind should always be a main priority, whether this means resolving the issue immediately or providing an ETA for the solution while your team works on it.

The solution should be tailored to the customer and their individual concerns. And while the solution might take some time to work on, the customer is likely to appreciate your team working on it rather than offering an apology with no communication about how it will be resolved. Keep them in the loop while your team decides on the best course of action.

Use Goodwill Gestures

Goodwill gestures are probably one of the most common methods used to help bring customers back to your side once the situation has been rectified. Things like discount codes, money knocked off bills or vouchers can all do wonders for improving customer retention and loyalty.

However, it’s important to only use these alongside a sincere, personal and empathetic apology. Without saying sorry, the goodwill gesture can be seen as empty and impersonal. It also might not seem like you’re addressing the issue and are instead trying to soften the blow while avoiding dealing with the problem directly. Therefore, it’s important that the gesture is related to the problem or concern. For example, if their order was delayed, offer free express shipping for their next order to show that you understand their inconvenience.

use goodwill gestures

Follow Up with your Customers

As a final step, always be sure to check in on your customers after a few days have passed and hopefully the apology has sunk in. Not only will this show your customers that you care about them, but it can also improve your customer retention rates. Sometimes saying sorry isn’t enough to ensure that customers are returning to you after a mishap, but a simple follow up by email or phone can make a big difference.

In your follow up, it can be useful to find out whether they were satisfied with the way the apology and their issue was handled. The information your business gains from these follow up interactions can be vital for learning how to deal with future customer apologies.

How to Apologise to a Customer: Common Customer Care Scenarios

In customer care, there are several common scenarios in which representatives would need to apologise in the right manner using a variety of phrasing techniques. Here, we’ll show you the best practices for handling some of the most common scenarios.

Apologising to a Customer for a Delayed Response

After a delayed response, it’s best to keep things moving quickly so that the customer isn’t left waiting any longer than they already have.

Examples of templates to use:

  • We apologise for your long wait and appreciate that it must be frustrating; our team is currently experiencing a high volume of calls. Can I take your customer information so we can get started resolving this issue quickly?
  • We value your time and are sorry that you’ve experienced a delay in our communications. How can we help you today?
  • We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused by the delay in our response. To get things moving, we’re directing you to one of our friendly and experienced representatives that can help with your issue.

Apologising to a Customer for a Delayed Order

Similarly to the above, apologies for delayed orders should be handled promptly. However, this is usually something that’s out of your hands, which can tempt some businesses to deflect the blame and give a less-than-satisfactory apology. Be sure to take responsibility and make amends sincerely, offering an explanation for why the order is delayed if possible.

Examples of phrases to use:

  • Now that we’re aware of this situation, we’ll be investigating the reason for the delay and will get back to you when we know more. We appreciate your patience.
  • We appreciate you bringing this issue to our attention and we’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.
  • I’m sorry that you’ve experienced this delay. We are working hard to ship our orders out during this busy period, but in the meantime, we can offer you express shipping on your next order.

Apologising to a Customer for Product Dissatisfaction

Product dissatisfaction can encompass a range of issues. From inaccurate product descriptions to broken products on arrival, it’s essential to acknowledge that you’re saying sorry for not meeting customer standards on this occasion.

Examples of phrases to use:

  • We’re sorry that this product didn’t arrive as expected.
  • We care about your experience with us and apologise that on this occasion, we were unable to meet our regular standards.
  • We apologise that we were unable to meet expectations with this product on this occasion. We appreciate that you have brought this to our attention so that we can work on a solution.

Apologising to a Customer for Bad Service

While you might be dealing with a complaint about bad service, this could be related to another representative or a part of the purchasing experience that your representatives aren’t involved in. But since you all represent the same company, a collective apology is typically necessary.

Examples of phrases to use:

  • We’re very sorry for your experience with us and will be investigating the issue to find out what happened and why.
  • Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We apologise for your experience and want to reassure you that it will not happen again.
  • We’re sorry that our customer service standards have slipped on this occasion. We take your feedback very seriously and will work to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Apologising to a Customer via Email: Customer Apology Email Example

Sending an apology via email? Check out our example below to get a better understanding of the language to use and how it should be structured.

Hello [customer name], thanks for reaching out to us.

Firstly, we’d like to apologise for the delay that you’ve experienced in receiving your order. This delay has been caused by unprecedented demand and we’re currently working hard to ensure that orders are being shipped out within the estimated timeframe. We understand that on this occasion, we have failed to meet this obligation and are sorry for any inconvenience and frustration caused.

As you’ve made us aware that your order is now five days behind schedule, we have given you a free upgrade to ensure that the package reaches you with 24-hour tracked shipping. We’ll send you an email once the items have been shipped, which we expect to be later today. This email will contain all the tracking information required.

We will also be offering a refund for the shipping fees you’ve paid, which should reach you within 1-3 business days.

Again, we want to emphasise that we’re sorry for not meeting our deadlines on this occasion, and we hope that our solution will offer some consolidation for you.

Let me know if you have any further questions or concerns about this and I’d be happy to help.

Although apologies can be difficult to handle because they can vary, representatives using our advice and tips on giving customer apologies will be better placed to right the wrongs.

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