The Right Way to Apologize to an Unhappy Customer

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at

As a business owner you want to create great experiences for all your customers. Why? Because if your customers leave happy they’re more likely to come back for more. But what should you do when things do go wrong? The answer is simple: apologize. However, an insincere or empty apology can often do more harm than good. Here are five simple tips on how to apologize the right way.


1. Do it face-to-face

A good apology should be personal—they don’t have quite the same effect when sent by email or text message. If it can’t take place in person, Skype, FaceTime, or GoToMeeting are viable alternatives, and if those options aren’t available, make a good old-fashioned phone call.


2. Don’t make excuses

When somebody tells you that they’re sorry and follows it up with a long explanation of why the incident happened, it sounds a lot like an excuse. It’s almost a subtle way of saying, “I’m sorry—but it’s not my fault.” Instead of giving a long-winded explanation, just offer a simple apology and then later, once the situation has been diffused, go into more detail (if necessary).


3. Take more of the blame than you should

We all know that there are two sides to every story, and in most conflicts, each side likely shares a significant portion of the blame. But in a business situation you should always shoulder the blame—regardless of who’s right. This isn’t a relationship of equals; your customer is probably of more value to you than you are to them. After all, you have competitors, and as a result, your customer has options.


4. Business is no place for feelings

Customers may get mean sometimes, but in the event that one makes a personal attack on you, resist the urge to fight back. Don’t take it personally—just listen to them and offer a sincere apology regardless of the what they might say.

Remember: being right, stating your case, and defending your personal honor to somebody who is already upset won’t probably result in repeat business. Putting up an emotional wall when they yell, saying you’re sorry, and asking for another chance has a much greater chance of making you improving your bottom line in the long-term.

By Andrew Patricio

August 06, 2014