Stop Saying “Sorry for the Inconvenience” and Learn How to Apologize to Customers

11 min read
Aug 17, 2023
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When getting customer service help, how often do you hear the phrase "Sorry for the inconvenience"? Does it make you feel better and more relaxed, or do you get even more frustrated? The latter, I'd say.

"Sorry for the inconvenience" lacks an authentic feel and comes across as insincere or formulaic. Repeating it might make customers feel like another transaction rather than valued individuals. And that's where a genuine apology steps in like a superhero, cape and all. I'm talking about the kind of "My bad" that goes beyond words and shows customers you're not just pushing them through a robotic script.

A sincere apology isn't just a "nice to have" in customer service interactions. It's like the secret sauce that turns a sour situation into a thumbs-up moment. Forget "Sorry for the inconvenience" and learn to sincerely apologize and express regret in a way that turns unhappy customers into satisfied ones.

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Sorry for the inconvenience meaning

Using the "Sorry for the inconvenience" phrase and nothing else makes you look like you don’t care; you just say what is supposed to be said. And that's the biggest trigger for customers. Because it's not like they're interested in your overall performance, the tools you use, and how well you shift between the chats (maybe a little, but not to the point you might think).

They care about the feelings, the impressions, and the memories that come from being well or poorly served. They also care about the result of the interaction.

So, when you use a phrase that lacks the personal touch and empathy and makes you look like you want to go home instead of helping them, that's when customers see red.

Here's why you should ditch "Sorry for the inconvenience" once and for all:

Customers expect more, and you can enhance those relationships when you apologize unreservedly and mean it. Just as a catchy chorus sticks in your head, a heartfelt apology sticks in your customers' minds. It can turn a negative experience into a positive one and increase overall customer satisfaction.

What is considered a sincere apology?

Let me show you what makes for sincere apologies. Including these elements in your apologies make all the difference:

Remember, the goal is to convey genuine regret and commit to making things right. A sincere and thoughtful apology can go a long way in maintaining positive customer relationships.

How to apologize - phrases to use instead of "Sorry for the inconvenience"

So, what can you say instead of "Sorry for the inconvenience"? Here are a couple of sentences you can implement into your customer service routine:

Ensuring customers it won't happen again:

More formal alternative:

Each of these alternatives aims to show genuine concern, empathy, and a commitment to resolving the issue – ingredients that can transform a routine apology into a meaningful connection.

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Great examples of apology letters from companies

1. JetBlue

The Denver fiasco from a few years back offers a noteworthy blueprint courtesy of JetBlue's founder and former CEO, David Neeleman. When the airline left passengers stranded on the tarmac for eleven hours in February, a wave of reputation-denting outrage ensued. 

Neeleman didn't miss a beat. He promptly assumed complete responsibility, penned a "first-person singular" letter of apology in USA Today, and made the rounds on numerous talk shows. But it didn't stop at mea culpas – he spotlighted the valuable lessons learned and the concrete measures to prevent future repeats.

jetBlue apology letter David Neeleman

2. Southwest Airlines

Similar to JetBlue, Southwest Airlines is recognized for its customer-centric approach. Their apology letters are empathetic, concise, and focused on resolving customer concerns.

In 2022, Southwest Airlines faced a travel fiasco over the holidays, where thousands of flights were canceled or delayed. In a letter to Rapid Rewards members, President and CEO Bob Jordan outlined steps his company is taking to ensure travel does not become a nightmare.

Southwest Airlines apology letter

3. Zappos

Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, is known for its outstanding customer service. Their apology letters are personal and empathetic and often include a touch of their company's friendly and personable brand voice. 

Look at this apology email to a customer who ordered a pair of shoes that fell apart. The response is gold, and while many customer service agents out there might have been fired for being "unprofessional" for sending an email like this, I think this message makes Zappos unique and loved by so many.

zappos apology email 

Apology email template to address customer complaints

I could give you many more examples of apology emails and messages, but instead, I want to leave you with a basic apology letter template. It includes everything you should mention if you want your customers to feel better. 

Remember to tailor the template to your specific situation, add personal touches, and ensure the tone and content match your company's style and the nature of the issue.

Dear [Customer's Name],

I wanted to personally reach out to you regarding the recent issue you experienced with [briefly describe the situation or problem]. First and foremost, I want to express our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience or frustration this may have caused you.

At [Your Company Name], we take great pride in delivering exceptional [product/service] and ensuring the best possible experience for our valued customers. We deeply regret that we fell short of meeting your expectations this time.

Please know that we are taking this matter seriously and are actively working to address and resolve the issue. Our team is committed to [explain the steps you are taking to rectify the situation and prevent it from happening again].

We understand your time is valuable, and we truly appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to make things right. Your satisfaction is our top priority, and we are dedicated to ensuring that your future interactions with us are nothing short of excellent.

As a token of our apology, we would like to [mention any compensation or gesture you might be offering, if applicable].

If you have any further concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at [customer service contact information]. Our team is here to assist you in any way we can.

Once again, I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and appreciate your understanding and continued support of [Your Company Name]. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address this matter and improve our services.


[Your Name]

[Your Title/Position]

[Your Contact Information]

Did you like this template? You might also find this useful: Creative Examples to Say Thank You for Your Order

Note to all the bosses - teach your customer service team that it's right to be wrong

On a final note, let's mention the most important thing: teaching a customer service team that it's okay to make mistakes. It's the only way they'll feel comfortable apologizing to customers. And to do so, they need an example from the top. So, whenever someone messes up, how it's handled inside the company sets the tone for future relations between the customers and the customer service agents themselves.

Here's the example that you want to set to your team if you want your agents to admit mistakes to customers in the future and nurture customer relationships:

It's okay to be wrong

Nobody's perfect. We're all human, meaning slip-ups are part of the game. Whether it's delivering poor service, missing a deadline, or forgetting to follow up – it happens. And that's totally okay.

Owning the oops

When the oops moment strikes, own it like a boss. Admit the mistake and take responsibility. Customers appreciate honesty more than we realize. So, if we're late in delivering, we apologize sincerely and let them know we're on it, working to fix things in a timely manner.

More customers through honesty

Owning mistakes can bring in more customers. Why? Because being upfront and real creates genuine connections. People like doing business with real people, not robots. When we admit our missteps, customers see that we're human and that authenticity can build trust like nothing else.

Avoid unnecessary apologies

Not every situation calls for an apology. Sometimes, we might think we messed up, but the customer doesn't see it that way. Sending an unnecessary apology makes things weird. So, use your judgment – if it's not a big deal, don't stress.

Serious offense and bad news

What about when things go wrong – like, serious offense wrong? In these cases, honesty is our superhero. If we have bad news, don't sugarcoat it. Deliver the news honestly, and explain what we're doing to fix it. Transparency goes a long way in building trust, even in tough situations.

Turning mistakes into wins

Remember, admitting mistakes isn't the end of the world – it's the start of making things right. Learn from the blunders, grow from them, and show our customers that we're not just about smooth sailing. We're about turning a rough patch into a winning moment.

Saying sorry and winning back unhappy customers

Apologies hold incredible power in customer service, where interactions can make or break relationships. Don't shy away from apologizing when things don't go as planned. Instead, use it as a chance to connect on a deeper level. It's a chance to say, "We messed up, but we care enough to make it right." 

By stopping the old "Sorry for the inconvenience" routine and choosing heartfelt apologies, you're not just transforming customer experiences – you're elevating your brand and leaving a lasting positive impression.

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