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The Effective Business Apology

Sorry can be difficult even when you’re wrong. From apologizing to an employee you've overlooked, a customer who didn't have a good experience or a public relations snafu, the need for a business apology is bound to happen. 

Before the internet, if you had an issue, you could write a letter or make a phone call. That complaint might be addressed by customer service on their schedule. Today, social media allows a forum to voice complaints to potentially thousands of people without contacting the business involved.

In light of the changing times it's essential you understand what goes into an effective business apology. The words I'm sorry simply aren't enough.

Here's what you need to add to them:

The 6 Elements of an Effective Business Apology

  1. Express regret - The initial part of your apology should contain what you're sorry for
  2. Explain what went wrong - Be specific about what the issue was
  3. Acknowledge responsibility - How did it happen
  4. Declare regret and promise it won’t happen again – Say sorry and talk about how you will ensure this isn’t repeated in the future
  5. Offer repair - What you will do to make it right (Not necessarily a monetary reparation)
  6. Request forgiveness – Ask they forgive you and for the opportunity to earn their business back


  • Shirk responsibility by putting it on them by saying: I'm sorry you felt this way
  • Blame someone else, especially if it's a management problem
  • Make empty promises
  • Say things you don't plan on implementing, especially if they are extreme
  • Minimize their feelings by offering something meaningless
  • Make things overly complicated to receive the reparation

If you own a business, it's inevitable that at some point someone will become disenchanted. When that happens, if you're in the wrong, you'll need to issue an apology. While you don't need to include all 6 of these components, the more of them you use, the more likely the customer is to accept the apology and do business with you in the future.

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