4 Ways to Apologize With Email

When you make a mistake, sometimes a good email apology can help smooth things over.

When you make a mistake, sometimes a good email apology can help smooth things over.

I’ve received several of these messages in the last several months. Now, I’m not the kind of person to get outraged by missteps. Stuff happens. Technology, like people, is fallible.

But if it’s something that’s offensive, that’s a big deal.

Your company’s brand reputation can be damaged when an “oops” results in lost or angry customers. Or at least some social media badmouthing.

I looked through email collected by Who’s Mailing What!, as well as my own, for some ideas on how to respond when disaster, or near-disaster strikes.

1. Get Out In Front ASAP
nycoWithin hours of a website glitch on October 12, New York & Company announced in a subject line: “And We’re Back!” The preview text explains: “Our site was down earlier, but we’re back up and running. We apologize for the inconvenience.” OK, so it’s not much (see below) but it was quick.

2. Be Sincere
oartDon’t fake it, express your sorrow. Show some empathy for the plight of the customer or donor. Use a lot of text to do so, and avoid images so the customer can focus on those words. Here, OverstockArt.com apologizes by dispensing with its usual format by using a framed apology from the company’s founder & CEO.

3. Explain What You Need To
illysorryYou don’t owe a customer a full accounting of the reasons for a crash. But when properly positioned, it can help to not only deal with the damage it may have caused, but also to raise your statute in the customer’s eyes. Illy Caffe North America’s email from earlier this year says that its breakdown happened during “an effort to improve your shopping experience.”

4. Offer a Discount
reebokWhether it’s an offer code, a coupon, or even a gift, you need to keep the recipient’s trust. Otherwise, they might be reaching for that unsubscribe link at some point. In this example, Reebok extended its 40% off sale to compensate for the website problems.

Ultimately, a mistake serious enough to require being addressed with an email is an opportunity to learn how to be better. And with this second chance, you can reinforce or rebuild the customer’s confidence in your company and its marketing. After all, it’s all about them, not you.

3 thoughts on “4 Ways to Apologize With Email”

  1. I still do some banking with Wells Fargo and just received an email from them telling me I can “trust” them again after they’ve made “some settlements involving some of our customers” and they are working hard to restore “my faith” I have in their company. All fine, except there is not a single word of apology for the egregious, wide-spread and systematic abuse of customer trust that over 5,000 employees participated in with management’s support. Without that frank apology, their email does nothing to build trust.

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