How to write an apology email and turn a failure into an opportunity

11 March 2021Reading time: 4 min.

Check out 10 tips and some practical and effective apologies to readers. Turn a slip into an opportunity: strengthen the relationship with your users and increase their trust.

Maybe you’ve sent the wrong promotional code, provided incorrect information, addressed users with an improper campaign or, at worst, used offensive content and tones. 

In any case, apologizing to the recipients is always a great way to fix a misfire and safeguard your reputation. 

Follow our 10 tips, and take a cue from these concrete examples to create an effective apology email. At the same time, turn the inconvenience into an opportunity to boost loyalty, engagement, and conversions. 

Writing an effective apology email: 10 tips

1. Put your apology right in the subject line

The subject line is the first email element that a user sees. Start your apology from there so that you can immediately clarify the purpose of your message and minimize the risk that the user doesn’t read it. This way, admitting your fault will be even more immediate, explicit, and effective

Here are some ideas:

  • “Oops! Something went wrong.”
  • “Did our last email confuse you? Let’s provide some explanations.”
  • “Apologies for the mistake. We’re so sorry.”
  • “We made a wrong move! Here’s what happened.”
  • “Sorry for the mishap.”
  • “Please accept our warmest and most sincere apologies.”
  • “Oops! Here’s the right email. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
  • “Here’s what went wrong. Sorry for the trouble.”
subject line apology email

Don’t risk repeating a mistake! Follow the 7 golden rules of the email subject line.

2. The sender must be recognizable. Introduce yourself in a personal way. 

Make sure that the user recognizes your email address. Introduce yourself in a personal and direct way. Say who you are and what you do. This type of approach communicates a greater transparency and authenticity, giving the idea that you’re willing to take responsibility for your mistakes and “put yourself out there” for them. 

Showing your name and corporate role also offers the user a more “human” feel. In fact, it allows the user to understand that there are flesh and bones behind the mistake or the incorrect email. Just like everyone else, they can make mistakes. 

emma-apology-email-example

Source: Emma 

3. Apologize explicitly and immediately.

Don’t wait until the end of the email to admit your faults. Disclose regret right the beginning. Do it immediately and explicitly. Your apology should be short, concise, and straightforward. Place it as the first email element above the fold line so that the user doesn’t need to scroll down to get your point. 

chanel-apology-email-maintenance-issue
methodical-apology-email

4. Explain the reason behind the mistake. 

Do your best to detail why it happened. Let your audience understand the dynamics that led to the problem.  

Remaining vague or, even worse, hiding the causes of the mistake can compromise your transparency and, therefore, your audience’s trust. This would make your efforts useless. 

Watch out: explaining the misstep must always come after the apology that opens the message. Don’t let the details overshadow your intent to apologize. Be specific in your motives, but don’t exaggerate. 

5. Your message should be personal and empathetic so that you can address the user directly.

Thank the recipients for their patience. Make it clear that you’re on their side by using an empathetic tone—but don’t overdo it.  The message should communicate an honest, spontaneous and, above all, authentic accountability.  

Boost your apology email by using dynamic fields, e.g. a user name to customize your message

shutterfly-apology-email

6. Be proactive and explain the corrective actions.

List the actions you took or might take to prevent a similar situation from happening again in the future. This is a great way to regain user trust and highlight how much you care about fulfilling expectations and reacting promptly with concrete actions. 

The following United Airlines apology email is a perfect example. After having expressed his regret, the company’s CEO provides the precise details of each corrective action to make up for the problem:

corrective-action-explanation-example

7. Defuse the issue. Get the user to smile so that you can put out any fires.

Sure, a bit of humor doesn’t fit every circumstance and type of business. However, showing self-irony and cheering up your database through a smile can sometimes be the winning card. 

But listen to your audience and analyze their sentiment before using this approach. In fact, you need to see if such a strategy is a good fit for the situation. 

Playing it down and snatching a smile from your audience may help calm energies. This can turn a failure into an opportunity to boost engagement, as well as safeguard the quality of your relationships.  

fab-ironic-apology-email

8. Be available for further details and support.

After apologizing and describing the causes of the error and the corrective actions taken to manage the situation, it’s time to offer your support and full availability for further explanations. Provide an address or alternate contact method. Allow recipients to continue the conversation through another channel. 

putbrain-support-apology-email

9. Compensate for failure and turn the error into an advantage.

Regain the public’s trust and fix the mistake with discount codes or promotions designed specifically for the situation. This strategy allows you to turn a tough time for your business into a profitable opportunity. This facilitates not only your database trust but also your conversions. 

apology-email-25%-off

Such an approach also works in the case of neglecting segmentation best practices and incorrect campaign targeting. Again, apologize to those who incorrectly received your email by offering a promotion. Take the chance to facilitate a conversion and avoid the risk of spam reports

Here’s a concrete example that might inspire you:

pluralsight-promo-code-apology

10. Ask your contacts for feedback.

Let recipients know how vital their opinion is for your business. Invite them to offer feedback on your incident management. This way, you’ll be able to know if your apologies have been effective and, where possible, improve your crisis management strategy. The user will really feel seen, and this will strengthen a sense of community and loyalty toward your brand. 

apology-feedback-zocdoc-email

Were you able to fix the mistake? Analyze the impacts of your email to verify it.

Ensure your apology was successful and that your audience actually excused the mistake. For this, like with any email campaign, you need to review your message performance and analyze key metrics.  

The numerous functions of the MailUp Statistics area will provide you with an accurate reporting system and a complete picture of the effectiveness of your apology.  

The click-through and conversion rate analysis associated with the make-amends promotions will illustrate your apology strategy’s reach in transforming a failure into an opportunity and an advantage. 

Find out what you can do with the platform’s Statistics area!

In summary

When it comes to writing an apology email, admitting your faults in a transparent, authentic, and spontaneous way is key to safeguarding your relationship with your audience while keeping your reputation intact. 

No matter the mishap, focus on these indispensable elements of any apology plan before sending your message:

  • Be sincere, clear, and direct;
  • Take full responsibility for the mishap; 
  • Contact the recipient directly;
  • Be sorry and sympathetic;
  • Explain the reason for the inconvenience;
  • Describe your corrective action plan;
  • Reward and please the audience, and 
  • Ask for feedback. 

This article was written by

Paola Bergamini

Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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