30 Jan 2018
Admitting our mistakes: how to make apology emails

Everybody makes mistakes, so it’s used to say that we all learn from our mistakes. But for email marketing, business or customer service mistakes are bad instruments to learn because there is always an affected party. If your clients have suffered, it means that the main source of your profit has been dissatisfied and got problems because of you. If your partners and distributors were affected - the product or service that you offer your customers is at risk. It’s difficult to foresee the failure and reaction to it in advance, but we still try to develop some kind of general outline to the case if you have mistaken and don’t know how to inform your customers in the best way.

What to do if you’ve made a mistake?

Many companies are afraid to receive negative feedback and to acknowledge their mistakes thinking that current customers will turn from them if they discover that company can make a mistake. In real, everything is just the opposite: users know it well that misdeeds are inevitable, therefore a company that shows an adequate reaction to its faults is compared favorably not with competitors only but with all other companies too.

If you noticed a mistake affecting one or two users then support service should contact client in any convenient communication channel to notify him the situation and fix the error. The most typical way is to send apology letter to customer. The world’s leaders in customer service from Zappos provided their support team an option to send flowers and postcards in difficult situations, or even make the whole client’s order free.

If that was system error occurred then your road map is slightly different from the particular cases. Once you have determined the cause of mistake you should immediately notify your users these four points:

  1. You know about the fault, admit your guilt and explain the essence of the trouble;

  2. You are processing specific actions to fix it right now and explain it clear what exactly is being done;

  3. What are you planning to do in order to make this problem never repeat again?;

  4. Offer all the affected parties a significant bonus in compensation for the negative emotions caused by this situation.

Even if your users didn’t know about the problem or just not understood what’s happened, you have not to wait for complaints or negative feedback. Your social network pages and notification mailings are perfect channels for immediate communication. Sooner or later, all the users will check their mailboxes and see your forgiveness letter.

After the problem is solved, especially if error has affected many people, it’s quite wise to post an official comment in your blog and on websites that are respected and read by your current and potential clients.
Read on eSputnik: Reactivation campaigns or how to “wake up” a client?

Apology letter: how major projects do it?

On the web there are not too many successful examples of professional apology letter made by major projects, much less in form of email campaigns. But I succeeded anyway to find some of them:

1. Zappos: a price error occurred with 6pm.com

There was a bug in website pricing engine, so all the products were priced up to $49.95. A trouble was noticed after 6 hours and it caused the losses of $1.6 million, website was even unavailable for a while. After the problem was fixed, Tony Shay, a general director of Zappos, made an appeal to clients where he explained what was happen, offered apologies to the consumers in official Zappos blog and informed that since it was not clients fault but company’s, all the orders made before error is detected shall be delivered at the price specified on website.

2. Ozon.ru: an underpriced iPhone 4

Was it system error or marketing trick in vein of those failed "black fridays" and "cyber mondays" in Russian online stores? In any case, Maelle Gavet apologized for deceived expectations on her Facebook page, she explained the situation and offered to return 4,100 rubles to clients personal account after buying of the desired iPhone.

3. Two apologies from Amazon, a world’s E-Commerce leaders

A head of Amazon Prime shipping service apologizes to the mailroom workers for overwhelming with packages and offered them special student discounts for shipping as to college members.

Письмо-извинение от Amazon.com

When Amazon increased the demand for a Kindle cheap tablets it turned out that the first series were sold out too quickly. Here is a fragment of their apology email to client who didn’t succeed to purchase this device and had to wait another 6 weeks for shipping.

Фрагмент письма-извинения от Amazon.com

We have already considered the examples and theory, so now I propose to proceed with the practice of sorry emails composing.

Make your first effective email!

Copywriting and composing of business apology letter

Rules to compose apology email are almost the same as for regular messages. It’s important for you to stick to visual and speech style you have once chosen for your mailing campaigns. If you are familiar with your customer but suddenly start with "sorry, Sir" it will be too flashy and standing out of your emailings way.

A subject line of apology letter should not only intrigue the reader but also explain what is inside, just like usual message subject.

Email should be sent on behalf of a person that is not only responsible for what is happened but also able to fix an error. It’s unethical and incorrect when PR service of the company apologizes for management mistakes instead of director, it makes user understand that sorry email is purely formalistic in this case.

As for design, it’s better to avoid bright visual emphasis and excessive email branding. I really liked the forgiveness letter from Rupert Murdoch of CEO News Corp although it wasn't even a typical mailing.

Письмо-извинение от CEO News Corp

The most important visual emphasis is that you are sorry and doing everything to solve the issue.

It’s top of the line for any apology email to find in it the new opportunities to make your clients more loyal and even turn them into defenders of your brand.

But what if error occured in mailing itself?

Professional marketers are familiar with adrenaline injected in veins by "Send" button click. All the minor mistakes are usually noticed at the moment when newsletters were already opened by real people. We have translated an article from clickz.com, about what should we do when mistake is done in mailing, so it might be just a thing to refresh it once again. Absent links in pics, misprints, incorrect prices or discounts are typical mistakes that require immediate reaction in form of additional message.

Action plan:

1. Estimate the magnitude of the tragedy: maybe you managed to stop mailing, so you should only send apology letter to customers who opened your email (or whom it was delivered to), not to all the contacts of your mailing list.

2. Don’t send email with the same subject line and minimum changes. Users read your email diagonally and may simply not understand that it’s another email. Reader will decide that the same message was sent him twice and mark it as spam.

3. Explain users what’s happened. If you’ve sent a message to clients from Kiev but it was arranged for people living in Dnepr, apologize and confess honestly that you made a mistake. They will surely appreciate the relevant offers you made before and forgive you.

4. Create a flexible and simple template of forgiveness letter, so in moments of panic caused by mistake you will be ready to send the good apology email as soon as possible.

5. Never panic. A professional email marketer should have pure thoughts and indestructible trust that any trouble is also a newsbreak to work with.

Mistakes are not always bad, sometimes an apology for insignificant mistake may become a good marketing trick. But don’t overuse this method, it will bore your audience soon.

But to turn a severe error into a new opportunity for your business it's not enough just to send a good-looking sincere email, it requires well-established processes, a polite and qualified support service and a sincere will of all the workers to grow, get improved and find the ways to make as few mistakes as possible.

Maybe you have seen some examples of truly pleasant and heart-touching apology letters from companies? If so, please share them with us on our facebook pages. And we really wish these examples not to be from your own practice:)

We would also recomend you to read interesting article Break These 8 Bad Habits to Boost Your Productivity.

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