By Sean Tinney January 11, 2024
Most of us have been there. You send an email to your audience, only to realize there is a mistake. Unfortunately we usually discover this error when our customers start sending us emails.
There’s a misspelling, broken link, wrong date.
Email mistakes happen, even the best marketers make mistakes. And your customers will understand. But it’s important that you address and fix the mistake.
In this article we’ll provide tips on how to write an effective apology email, when to send them, along with brilliant examples of companies saying “sorry.” Use these examples as a guide if you ever need to send your own heartfelt — or even humorous — apology email.
When should you send an apology email?
Before sending an apology email, evaluate whether the situation calls for it.
Ask yourself two questions:
- Would subscribers be inconvenienced or confused if I don’t send an apology?
- Did I (or my business) offend or upset my audience by doing something wrong?
If you respond with a “yes” to either question, you should send an apology email.
How to write an apology email
In most situations writing an apology email for your mistake should be straightforward. No need to write a big long email getting into the details of what happened. The exception being if the mistake offended someone or can hurt your business or reputation. Let’s review the structure for each.
How to say sorry in email for a simple mistake
Don’t overthink this apology email, most companies will follow this simple and effective approach.
- Subject Line: Be direct in the subject line. You’re sending this email because of a mistake, own the mistake up front.
- First sentence: What happened, what was the mistake
- Second sentence: Fix the mistake. If you send an incorrect link, give them the correct one.
- Third sentence: Apologize for an inconvenience and give them an email and/or phone number to contact if they have any questions.
Here’s a perfect example from Drift. The subject line explains why a customer is receiving this email – “Oops! We sent you the wrong link”. The email content is simple and to the point.
Apology email subject line examples for simple mistakes
Not sure what to write in your subject lines? Try one of these tips.
Explain exactly what happened and what you’re doing about it.
Example: Passion Planner
Subject line: Trouble with Eco? We Hear Your Concerns.
Mention your mistake
Be clear about the mistake you made right in your subject line.
Example: Really Good Emails
Subject line: We forgot some stufferoo
Everybody makes mistakes. As long as you haven’t made a serious one, use a human tone, like Buzzfeed, and maybe even add an emoji.
Subject line: Let’s try this again…🙈
Apologize for your mistake with a gift. But be sure to hint at it in the subject line, or subscribers won’t know what they’re missing.
Example: Wine Insiders
Subject line: Oops! Our mistake – your reward!
How to write your email if you offended someone or hurt your business
In situations like this you do not want to use humor, you need to be humble and show some genuine remorse.
The key is sincerity. Be genuine in your apology, take responsibility, and show that you are actively working to rectify the situation. This approach can help rebuild trust and maintain a positive relationship with your customers.
Here is templated approach you can follow:
Choose a subject line that is direct, empathetic, and conveys that an apology is being offered. For example:
- “Our Sincere Apology: Addressing [Issue]”
- “Taking Responsibility: Apology for [Specific Situation]”
Open with a polite greeting to set a respectful tone. “Dear [Customer/Client/Name],”. Then acknowledge the issue directly and express genuine remorse.
- “I want to sincerely apologize for…”
- “We deeply regret any inconvenience caused by…”
Core email content
Be specific, clearly outline what went wrong and take responsibility for the mistake. Avoid vague language and show that you understand the impact. Demonstrate empathy by acknowledging how the situation may have affected your customers.
Use phrases like:
- “We understand that this may have caused frustration for you…”
- “We realize the impact this has on your experience with us…”
If appropriate, briefly explain the reasons behind the mistake or issue. However, avoid making excuses or blaming others.
Reassure your customers that their satisfaction is a top priority and that measures have been implemented to prevent similar incidents. Then outline steps you have taken or will take to address the issue and prevent it from happening again.
Encourage the customer to reach out if they have further concerns or questions. Include contact details for a specific person or department.
End the email with a positive and forward-looking statement.
- “We value your business and will continue to strive for excellence in serving you.”
- “Thank you for your understanding and patience as we work to make things right.”
Apology email examples
Different mistakes require different responses. Here are examples of apology emails for some of the most common mistakes businesses make.
If you forget to carefully review and test your emails, you might end up sending an email with broken links or typos. It happens quite a bit. (Pro tip: Test your emails before you send them.)
If you did this, send an email to give people the correct information and to apologize for the mistake.
BuzzFeed sent a newsletter with the wrong link. They quickly sent an apology email with the right link and a lighthearted explanation.
Incorrect sign up link
You want someone to sign up for an event and you accidentally had the wrong sign up link.
Pearmill did just that. They quickly identified the mistake (most likely brought to their attention from one of their subscribers) and sent out this hilarious email. They took ownership of their mistake and wanted the reader to know if with this clever apology email subject line.
The wrong audience
Accidentally send an email to the wrong list or segment? Don’t panic, we’re all human.
That’s exactly what Uberflip admitted to in their apology email to subscribers who received information about a webinar they did not RSVP for.
Accidental email sends
If you hit send too early or deliver an email you never meant to send, keep calm and send an apology.
If the email you accidentally sent is funny (Let’s say it contains nothing but a cat.), you can even make your apology humorous, like Fab’s purrfect email below.
Missing information or details
Forgot to include important information or details in your email? Send a follow up email to correct your mistake.
Notice how Really Good Emails apologizes for sending another email in the same day and shares the information they forgot.
Technology doesn’t always work. If your website goes down or you’re dealing with another tech issue that affects your audience, email them to apologize and give an update on what’s happening.
Joanna Wiebe, founder of CopyHackers, sent an apology email after her webinar platform failed to work during her presentation on apology emails. (I think she jinxed herself.)
Wine Insiders also experienced technical difficulties on their website. As the email explains, the mistake wasn’t caught in a timely manner due to a company holiday, so they made up for it by extending a limited-time deep discount.
Broken products or poor service
A bad experience with your company can destroy your relationship with a customer and lead to negative reviews of your product or service.
If a large group of customers have a bad experience because you delivered a poor product or service, the negative impact is magnified. But you can send an apology email to help alleviate the damage.
After delivering defective products to their customers, Passion Planner emailed their audience an apology and an offer for a full refund.
If you’ve made a serious mistake, own it. No excuses. Apologize and explain how you’re addressing the issue so it doesn’t happen again.
Check out the apology email airbnb sent for a serious mistake below.
Own your mistakes.
It’s much better for your brand to apologize than to say nothing when a mistake happens. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.
Need help writing other emails? Download our free What to Write in Your Emails guide. It includes 45+ fill-in-the-blank email templates.
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