How to Craft the Perfect Apology Email

The Delicate Art of the Apology Email

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“I can’t wait for the day when I send my first apology email!” said no email marketer ever.

An apology email isn’t the best message to have to send, but it certainly doesn’t have to be the worst. The good news is, there are plenty of tools to help you avoid ever having to send one.

More often than not, the catalyst for an apology email is only as negative as you make it out to be in your content. Unless, you know, credit cards and social security numbers were stolen—we don’t recommend downplaying that level of severity.

Just know that having to send an apology email isn’t the end of the world. Plenty of brands do it. Is it the highlight of their week? Probably not. Does it flat out ruin their week? We certainly hope not.

The big question here is, what warrants and apology email and how should you go about it?

Apologetic Circumstances

There are plenty of reasons to send an apology email, but not every little hiccup or snafu warrants one.

When to send an oopsy-daisy email

Before you start creating your apology email, ask yourself “was anyone affected or potentially offended by the mistake?”

If the answer is no, then you’re probably good to move on without one. Continue about your day, business as usual. (And… maybe do a little research into implementing a solid email content checking strategy to avoid future flubs.)

On the other hand,

  • expired promotions
  • wrong CTA links
  • a technical error that’s impacting users
  • an accidental offensive word in a previous email
  • privacy breach
  • or emailing the wrong list segment

… are all reasons to send an apology email. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so use your best judgement.

Wistia apology email example
Apology email from Wistia

Anything that either impacts or offends your subscribers should warrant an “our bad—still friends?” follow up.

Alternatively, anything that doesn’t have a noticeable impact on subscribers who receive a flubbed email, such as email formatting issues, a typo in the body copy or a missing link on an image, likely won’t need an apology email. Those smaller issues are merely warning signals to be extra diligent and thoroughly review future messages on an email testing platform before they go out.

What Makes a Good Apology Email?

If you deem your error warrants a follow-up apology, no problem. Here are some tips for crafting the perfect “oops” email to help minimize damage to your brand’s reputation.

Be timely

Earlier is always better, no matter the case. If you sent an expired promotion, you’ll receive fewer calls, emails and complaints the sooner you can follow up with the correct information.

Extensis apology email example
Apology email from Extensis

In the event of a much larger issue, such as a privacy breach with further-reaching consequences, we also recommend having PR in place to help deal with any resulting backlash or news coverage.

Be transparent

The #1 rule of subject lines and preview text is to let subscribers know why you’re emailing them. Be transparent about it in your inbox display so your audience knows what’s going on.

You’re already coming forward to apologize, so might as well not beat around the bush. Be up front and unmistakably clear about why your brand is emailing them. Just be honest and forthcoming so the reason for the email is immediately known, and people can quickly know what happened and move on with their day.

Depending on the severity of the situation, it may even be appropriate for the email to come from an executive within the company, be it marketing, IT, or even the CEO themselves.

Stay optimistic

Again, most of the time, a whoops-worthy email won’t be addressing an end-of-the-world issue. So, the reason for the apology is only going to be as “bad” as your email language makes it out to be.

Notice the difference between:

“We are so sorry for this error, we truly apologize and will make sure it never happens again.”

Versus:

“Whoops! It looks like we sent you the wrong thing. Here’s the real (link/promo code/etc.) You’ll have much better luck using this one instead.”

The first apology borderline begs for forgiveness, which isn’t necessary. The second one plays it off cool like, “yep, we made a mistake, but we’re cool with moving on if you are.” This is a much healthier approach when apologizing to your audience.

Maintain your tone of voice

When people apologize for mistakes they’ve made, sure they’re a little more serious in tone, but it’s still them and their personality. The same holds true for your brand.

Don’t feel like you have to channel your inner lawyer and kick your brand voice and approachable tone to the curb. Your subscribers love you for you, so sprinkle your token flare into your message as well.

If possible, include an extra promotion

Subscribers are quick to forgive if you hit all the points above, but even more so if your apology doubles as a promotion. If your “whoops” email achieves conversion, you’re golden.

Consider your reputation

When you send an apology email, you’ll definitely get kudos from your community for being transparent, timely, and resolution-oriented.

But that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re also now aware of your hiccup. People make mistakes, it’s the human condition, and emails are sent by imperfect people. But brands are held to a higher standard.

Depending on the nature of the apology email, it might affect your reputation with subscribers. This is more likely to be the case the more severe the issue is, such as a privacy breach.

Apology Inspiration

“Whoops” emails are nothing new. Brands have been apologizing for millennia (maybe not ­that long, but you get the gist). Check out these prime examples of apology emails for a little creative inspiration as you start to craft your face-saving message.

Share your other tips for handling apology emails with us in the comments. Or, send your apology emails directly to us for a chance to be featured in our best-in-class email roundup.

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Author: Melissa Berdine

Venturing from her DC and NYC roots, Melissa made the trek to Denver. With just her dog and a background of copywriting and editing, she joined Email on Acid as content manager. Melissa is known to friends as an avid cook and music festival enthusiast.

Author: Melissa Berdine

Venturing from her DC and NYC roots, Melissa made the trek to Denver. With just her dog and a background of copywriting and editing, she joined Email on Acid as content manager. Melissa is known to friends as an avid cook and music festival enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “The Delicate Art of the Apology Email”

  1. Very thoughtful information gathered at one place. it happens with everyone at least once in a lifetime but is a very serious issue, especially if done on a digital platform. You’ve subjected is very nicely.

    1. Thank you so much, Ritik! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. You’re absolutely right, apology emails deserve the utmost consideration, and also serve as good reminders for thorough email QA.

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