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How to Write a Condolence Email to Customers and Coworkers

Condolence-Letter-Covid-Business

Very sadly, two past clients contacted me recently asking how to best phrase condolences to customers who have lost team members due to the pandemic or other reasons, and especially how to phrase necessary business actions with tact. As of today, more than 443,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and 2.25 million people have died worldwide. Inevitably, with these staggering numbers, it affects work, assignments, and customer support, as well as personal loss. 

While this article can in no way offset the heartbreak of those who have lost loved ones and dear colleagues, I hope it helps you express your condolences to customers or colleagues and explain how you will respond to support the work actions needed.


Three Essential Requirements for Condolence Letters to Customers or Coworkers

Below is an actual example of a well written work condolence email sent by a customer service representative to a customer who had lost a team member.

It reflects the three essential requirements of a condolence email addressing work actions needed as a result of the death:

  1. It directly addresses the loss with care in the opening statement.
  2. It expresses sincere concern and condolences.
  3. It explains how the writer will handle necessary work changes with balance and tact. 

Typically, we do not recommend appended sentiment images in business email, but it works well here. The image choice was thoughtful and meaningful. 

(One of our clients shared this example. We changed all names for privacy.)

Note: There are a few minor grammar and punctuation issues in this example that could be refined. However, none are egregious and the value of positive sentiment and clear information is far more important than perfect syntax. Condolence messages are hard to write. Don't let perfectionism prevent you from expressing your concern and help.

Example

Dear Tom and Ellen,

Tom, I wanted to let you know that I spoke with Ellen Fitcher from the Sacramento district. She informed me of the news about Bill Carrera passing away last week. My greatest sympathy to you, the district, and to Bill's family. I didn’t know Bill very well; however, every time I spoke with him on the phone he was full of energy, pleasant, and wanted the best. I will miss speaking with him. The news from Ellen brought tears to my eyes.

I wanted to let you know that I updated your correspondences by removing Bill’s information. You can reach out to me if the correspondences need to be updated, and for now, all correspondence that had been sent to Bill will be sent to Ellen. Let me know if I can assist you in any way while you are in the transition period of a new business manager. 

Jeri Knight
Account Manager

customer service writing condolences

Additional Resources


My hope and prayer is that you and all the people you love stay well and safe. 

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

― Maya Angelou

Mary Cullen

About the author

Mary Cullen

Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

Read Mary Cullen's Full Bio

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