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How to Create An Apology Email in 4 Simple Steps

How to Create An Apology Email in 4 Simple Steps Blog Feature

March 29th, 2014 min read

Mistakes happen. In fact, It's not so much a matter of if they're going to happen, but rather when they are going to happen. 

And when they do happen, they come in all different shapes and sizes. Some can get swept under the rug and others require a bit more damage control.

If you opt out of sorting your whites and colors, you'll have yourself to blame when your new white shirt comes out looking a bit pink. 

But when you send the right email to the wrong list of people, your boss will have you to blame. Yikes.

Keep in mind that when it comes to email marketing, there's no take-backs. If you try to convince yourself that no one will notice, you're only hurting yourself. 

If you make a mistake, don't panic. We've outlined 4 steps to follow to ensure that you get a quality apology email out before it's too late.

Assess the Damage

Start by determining how big of an impact this slip up is going to have on your business and your reputation. 

While people tend to be more forgiving of minor spelling errors (sometimes), you'll find that things like incorrect pricing, conflicting content, or selecting the wrong list can land you in some hot water with not only your boss, but the recipients as well.

Take a step back and analyze the situation from the audience's perspective. Will they be upset? Confused? Mad? Knowing where they are coming from will help you to craft a more appropriate apology that addresses their concerns specifically.

Do the same from the stand point of your business. Is it possible that you will lose customers as a result of this mistake? Did it damage your credibility?

In situations like this you'll also want to take advantage of your analytics. Take a look at the email open rate and the number of clicks. This type of information will help you put a rough number on how many people were affected by the inaccuracy. 

Respond Quickly

Timing has the ability to make or break the sincerity of your apology, so there is no sense in delaying the inevitable.

If you make a substantial mistake, act quickly. If you can get an apology email out before a majority of the recipients open the original, you can buffer the collateral damage a bit.

If recipients open the email and don't receive further explanation until days or weeks later, it's likely that they are going to turn to alternative channels like social media to ask for clarification, or send you an email expressing their dissatisfaction. Point being that the longer your wait, the more opportunity for the information to spread.

Avoid creating more work for yourself by replying in a timely manner, but don't rush through it. A mistake in your apology email is the last thing you need right now. 

Be Assertive 

When it comes time to actually create the content for the email, don't beat around the bush. People will more than often appreciate your honesty over a long-winded, strategically crafted excuse. Be human about it.

A business that puts forth an honest and sincere apology is more credible in the eyes of most than a business that try to cover up their faults or slip under the radar. 

While the content ultimately depends on the nature of your mistake and the size of your audience, it should align with a fairly general format. A solid apology should contain the following things:

  • Ownership for your mistake

  • A sincere apology

  • Clarification (ex: If the price was wrong, state the correct one)

  • If applicable, an explanation of why it happened 

  • A plan for how you will prevent the mistake in the future

If it makes sense, don't be afraid to include a "free gift" for your recipients. This could be in the form of a coupon, discount code, ungated piece of content, or anything else of value to your customers or clients. I mean, everyone loves free stuff, and at the very least it couldn't hurt, right?

Be sure to keep the content short and sweet. You've already inconvenienced them with one mistake so avoid taking up too much of their time with your apology. 

Make Sure it Matches

Your apology should not only match the nature of your error, but it should also align with the tone of your business. For most businesses sincerity and professionalism are of the upmost importance when it comes to addressing an employee error so be sure that you are conveying that in your response.

Here's a great example of an apology email from, an online retailer for outdoor recreation gear. The email came about after an offensive email was sent out to customers following devastating tornados in Alabama back in 2011. The origional email contained this image:


Luckily, was able to craft a quick responce that addressed and apologized for the offensive email before it completely crippled their reputation. Check it out:


This email is particularly successful because it addresses the issue, it's sincere, and it doesn't attempt to mask the error. Well done.

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