written by: Vikas Vij•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 10/1/2010
In business, a sincere apology can be worth a million dollars sometimes! It can save a big client from moving over his loyalties to the competitors. Business letters of apology are magic tools that, if used prudently, can do big damage control without a penny being spent.
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Tips on Writing Business Letters of Apology
In business, as in life, mistakes happen. A sincere and timely apology can act as an effective damage control exercise and save the situation from worsening in most cases. Writing business letters of apology is an art that should be mastered by every business. The following is a list of some useful tips on how to write a business letter of apology that makes the desired impact on the recipient.
Send the Apology Letter Promptly
A timely apology makes a big difference. It helps the aggrieved party to recover, which is the primary purpose of an apology. Even the best apology letter will fail to make an impact if it is sent too late after the incident. A delayed response appears like an afterthought and fails to reflect its sincerity in most situations. Therefore, show sensitivity and concern for the other party by sending an apology letter at the earliest possibility.
Be Forthright and Frank
Try to state the apology right away in the introductory paragraph of the letter so that the recipient knows the intent of the letter immediately. Be unambiguous and forthright about the error committed and accept responsibility for it in clear words. This will quickly establish the sincerity of the apology in the recipient’s mind. A half-hearted apology letter may only do more harm than good and may aggravate the situation even further. Therefore, a firm and unconditional apology works best in most cases.
Explain Your Situation
Once a clear apology has been stated, the ego issues are already resolved and the emotional barriers are broken. Now you can briefly and succinctly explain your side of the story to give the complete picture to the aggrieved party. After a sincere apology, such explanation will be received with more trust and empathy. Do not absolve yourself of the blame, but aim only to provide the reasons why the mistake happened.
Outline the Remedial Action
Show your commitment to redressing the wrong that has occurred, and indicate how it is going to be done. Give only such a commitment that you actually intend to follow up in practice. The written word has a lasting value so choose your words wisely while writing, and commit what is within the realms of practicality.
Give Assurance that the Error will not be Repeated
Go the extra mile in your apology letter by giving an assurance the same mistake will not be repeated in the future. Be sincere on this commitment because the apology letter may help to address a mistake one time, but it cannot help a second time if the loopholes are not plugged and the mistake continues to be repeated within the organization.
Use a Personal Tone throughout the Letter
An apology business letter is usually restricted to one individual or one organization. Particularly when it is an individual, try to maintain a personal touch in the letter to make it more direct and effective. Make sure to sign off the letter personally in ink. This will assure the recipient that you are actually aware of the situation, and you have addressed it personally.