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The Wrong Way to Write a Customer Apology Letter: Blame COVID

Upset customer in a pharmacy

Companies that didn’t innovate during the pandemic turn to apologies. And it’s going horribly wrong.

The pandemic stoked an eruption of innovation – curbside pickup, Uber-style delivery for anything, touchless elevators, touchless soda machines, contactless check-in at hotels, and the explosion of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) so bored crypto-millionaires could buy weird monkey art to glitz up their Twitter profiles.

But some companies struggled. Facing low customer satisfaction with their poor service, they turned to marketing. My pharmacy emailed me an apology letter – but instead of rebuilding broken trust, it just made me angrier.

Allow me to translate:

Email

We hear you.

And we’re here for you.

It’s been a very tough few years. As the pandemic continues…

Translation

Hello consumer, stop because we wrote a very important email about ourselves.

We know you’re upset but it’s really not our fault because of the pandemic.

We’re “here for you” in a very unspecific and not-legally-binding way.

When you’re 3 seconds from melting into a salty puddle because you were exposed to COVID at work AGAIN and need a rapid test before you go home to your unvaccinated toddler, Nurse Nancy will still treat you like a vulture even after she’s 37 minutes late for your appointment.

But in the corporate email marketing department? We’re totally here for you.

Email

Now more than ever, we owe it to you to recognize the challenges we as a company have faced during the pandemic, including longer lines, out-of-stock items and delayed appointments.

Translation

We all paused for a moment of deep reflection on the challenges we faced. We admired the problem, and everyone agreed it was a whopper.

The pandemic was really hard for companies. Give us your sympathy, consumer!

Email

We’re in this together, and because of your feedback and understanding, we’re confident we’ll all come out stronger.

Translation

Be patient with Nurse Nancy. We’ve left her overbooked and unsupported because hardship builds character. She’s 3 seconds from her own salty meltdown, but if she perseveres, she’ll be stronger on the other side. We did it for her.

You’ll come out stronger too. See you in line!

Warmest regards,
Chuck from Marketing

OK, meanie! Can you write a better one?

Here’s my customer-centric rewrite of the customer apology letter:

Dear Dave,

You and others complained about longer lines, out-of-stock items, and delayed appointments.

You’re right. We’ve had some problems and we’re sorry we let you down.

We’re making the following improvements:

• <How we’re addressing the lines>
• <How we’re addressing out-of-stock items>
• <How we’re addressing delayed appointments>

You can expect to see these changes rolling out across stores next week.

If you’d like to share additional feedback, you can contact us here: <link>

To your health,
<Person Actually Responsible>

If you want to write an email that resonates with customers, then follow these guidelines:

  1. Write the email about your customers, not your company.
  2. If you messed up, own it. Take full responsibility.
  3. Tell customers the specific actions you’re taking to address the problems and when they will happen.

Did I miss anything? Comment below with your tips for a customer apology letter.

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