How to Send an Apology Email
By Kelly Forst January 26, 2021
When your business makes a mistake, you need to act quickly. A sincere apology email can often help to fix the damage.
But the stakes are high. Use the wrong words in your apology email, and you might anger your audience.
To avoid disasters like this, we gathered 6 brilliant examples of companies saying “sorry.” Consider this the Hall of Fame of Apology Emails. Use them as a guide if you ever need to send a heartfelt — or even humorous — sorry.
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.
Different mistakes require different responses. Here are examples of apology emails for some of the most common mistakes businesses make.
Incorrect info, broken links, and typos
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.
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.
How to write an apology email subject line
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!
Related:Your Guide to Writing the World’s Best Email Subject Lines
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.
AWeber is an email marketing platform that’s enabled more than 1,000,000 small businesses and entrepreneurs create and send emails people love.
Ready to send beautiful emails your subscribers will love? Get started with AWeber Free today!
Additional reporting by Amanda Gagnon & Kelly Forst
Tim7/11/2011 10:31 am
It seems like some email marketers purposely make a mistake in the first e-mail – so that they have a reason to then send another email later with an “important correction”. That way they can send twice as many emails, without it seeming as “spammy”. This seems like a sleazy practice, but it probably works.
Annie McGuire4/1/2019 11:21 pm
4-1-19 – Our new biz web site is on the build. As of today, only the Home Page has been worked on. In the meantime, we are going full bore on our email marketing. You’re just in time, ’cause there will be mistakes.
Your article is point on, Liz. Sadly, as Tim noted in the comment above, the apology format is abused – badly abused – used as an opener ploy. So listen up, folks, make ultra certain that your subject line doesn’t merely say “Apology / Apologies / I owe you an apology / Oops! / or anything like that. I don’t even open those anymore.
Let readers know from the get-go what you will be apologizing about. “Link error” “Wrong reference” “Forgot the …”
Jacques Nadeau2/15/2021 3:06 pm
Excellent original article. I had never read on this subject before. Very informative.
For my part, I never got the wrong audience, but having a broken link, it happened to me a few times and I didn’t know what to do.
Kelly Forst2/15/2021 3:15 pm
I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Jacques!