How to Write an Apology Letter to a Client

Are you having that unmistakable feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you’ve screwed up? Oof. It’s not a feeling anyone looks forward to, especially when the person on the receiving end of your mistake is a client.

Before you spend another moment agonizing over the details of the situation or what you could have done differently, stop, take a breath and get to work on an apology letter to a client. We’re here to help with the tips below.

What is a client apology letter?

A client apology letter is a written or digital statement sent to a client in which you take responsibility for a mistake. Maybe you made the mistake yourself, someone on your team made it, or it resulted from one of your business processes.

Whatever the case, an apology letter communicates your responsibility for the situation and expresses your desire to remedy it. A timely, sincerely written apology letter can help minimize your mistake’s personal, professional, and financial fallout.

Why it’s important to send apology letters to clients

Acknowledge your mistake

A customer wants to feel seen, heard, and valued, not taken for granted or forgotten about. So, when you’re in the wrong, you need to play offense.

Sending an apology letter helps you avoid a negative situation, proactively accepting blame and demonstrating that you’re in control of what’s being done to fix things.

Preserve the relationship

Will you be able to hold onto the client? There are no guarantees, but you have a much better chance of making it happen if you send a heartfelt apology than if you don’t.

Even if the mistake results in losing the client, your apology can help keep them from harboring negative feelings toward you or your company. This can prevent any additional reputational damage from being done.

When should you send a client an apology letter

When you’ve made an honest mistake

That crucial meeting you had scheduled with the client for next Thursday? It turns out it was today, and they sat there waiting for you for an hour. Though your intent wasn’t malicious, the frustration you caused the client is real. If you want them to be able to trust you moving forward, it’s necessary to acknowledge your mistake and how it affected them.

When you’ve acted unprofessionally

There’s no excuse for behaving badly in front of a client. It’s in your company’s and your professional reputation’s best interest to try to smooth things over after making a public gaffe.

When there’s an inconvenience

In business, it’s not uncommon for things beyond your control to negatively impact your workflows. If one of these things leads to inconvenience for a client, even if it wasn’t directly your fault, you’ll show that you’re the utmost professional by apologizing for their trouble.

What to include in a letter apologizing to your client

An apology

Start off with a direct and genuine “I’m sorry.” Describe the mistake in clear terms to show that you understand the problem.

Statement of responsibility

Admit that you were in the wrong and that you take full accountability. This shows you’re not deflecting blame.

Steps you’re going to take to fix it

Aside from the apology itself, this part will be the most important to the client, so be precise. They want to see that action is being taken.

An offer to follow up

If there’s going to be a long-term resolution process, help the client feel confident you’ll see things through by letting them know you’ll stay in touch as progress is made.

What you should omit

  • Excuses. There’s a difference between an explanation and an excuse. Avoid statements that direct blame to someone or something other than you. 
  • Ifs and buts. For example, “I’m sorry if you’re upset…” or “We would have sent you the correct order, but…” In general, these words detract from your apology and make it feel disingenuous.

Sample letters

Business mistake

Sonja, 

On behalf of my entire team at The Beacon Group, I apologize for the mistake with the 1st Avenue project. 

The plumbing was supposed to be installed on the 14th, but a miscommunication with the contractor caused the installation to be delayed. I take full accountability for this error and the inconvenience it has caused you.

The plumbing team will be on the job site first thing tomorrow morning and the installation should be finished by noon. I will follow up with you tomorrow afternoon to confirm successful completion. 

If you have any questions, please reach me on my cell at 999-111-2345. If there’s anything else we can do, don’t hesitate to ask. 

Sincerely, 

Mark

Unprofessional behavior

Mr. Townsend,

I’m writing to express my sincere regret over my actions during our meeting on Tuesday. I used inappropriate word choices in my frustration, and I’m deeply sorry. 

We work hard to earn our clients’ respect and I know my behavior must have disappointed you. I hope you can forgive my mistake and will trust me when I say it will never happen again. 

If you’d like to talk further, you’re always welcome to call me directly at 424-4000. 

Sincerely, 

Thomas Manheim

While it can be uncomfortable to swallow your pride and apologize to a client, admitting your mistake and outlining actionable steps to correct it in an apology letter is the best thing you can do to hold onto the relationship and minimize the collateral damage.