Apologizing to a Customer

Updated September 16, 2019
Dissatisfied restaurant clients complaining about bad service

In business, there are times when you will need to apologize to a customer. The last thing you want to do is let a customer walk away feeling angry and dissatisfied. Instead, you should address the situation in a professional manner. Treating an unhappy customer fairly and with respect can help you keep that person as a customer after you the situation has been handled.

How to Apologize to a Customer

When you need to apologize to a customer, using your business communication skills will help you handle the situation correctly. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Acknowledge the problem. Let the customer know that you understand why he or she is upset. This helps defuse the situation.
  • Take responsibility for the problem without making excuses. It may be tempting to try to shift blame for the problem elsewhere, but this is not a good strategy. When you take responsibility for the problem on behalf of your company, it demonstrates to the customer that you (and your business) have integrity. This is a trait the customer will respect and remember.
  • Tell the customer you will deal with the situation. If the problem is with a product, let the customer know you will contact the manufacturer or distributor to discuss the concerns. If the difficulty came from a customer service issue, then tell the customer you will discuss the situation with the staff member involved. If it seems appropriate, you may also want to tell the customer you will review your policies and procedures to make sure the situation is not repeated.
  • Ask the customer what you can do to make amends. Offer to replace the product or refund the customer's money. In the case of a problem with a service, you can offer to perform the service again or give a refund. If you are not sure of what the customer would like, just ask. A simple, "What can we do to keep you happy or to keep your business?" will go a long way toward keeping this person as a customer.

In order to make sure all employees are aware of appropriate methods or making amends with customers, a seminar on good customer service may be a necessary event for you business.

Printable Customer Apology Letter Template

Sometimes it's important to send an apology letter to a customer. The example letter below is a printable template that you can download and customize to meet your needs. Simply click the image to open the document as a PDF document that can be edited, saved and printed. Use this guide to printables if you need assistance with the document.

Apology letter for damaged merchandise
Sample apology for damaged merchandise

This sample letter is for a situation where a customer received damaged merchandise. See Sample Business Apology Letters for other types of situations that might warrant an apology letter.

Impact of Dissatisfied Customers on a Business

When someone buys your product or service and finds it falls below their expectations, their disappointment may even lead them to become angry. A person who feels they have not been treated well by a business is very likely to tell other people about their experience. Based on this information (which may or may not be completely accurate), potential clients or customers may choose to go elsewhere to have their needs met. Your business needs a steady stream of customers or clients to stay in business and to continue growing. Even one dissatisfied customer can tell many people they know that they shouldn't deal with your company, and this will negatively affect the bottom line.

Woman complaining about food quality in restaurant

Keeping Customers Happy Through Service Recovery

The fact is that everyone makes mistakes. Apologizing to customers who have had a negative experience with your company is simply the right thing to do - for them and for your business. When a customer chooses to tell you about a problem, consider it an opportunity for you to make amends. You want your business to have the reputation for providing exemplary customer service. When you make a customer service apology statement in a professional manner, you are demonstrating that you are running an organization customers can trust. If you adopt a mindset that a customer's complaint is an opportunity for your company to improve something about the way it does business, then you can focus on correcting the problem instead of making excuses - an important key to great customer service.

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Apologizing to a Customer