Apology Emails – When and How to Say You’re Sorry

Micah HattonIt’s been awhile, but if you remember Part One of this story, you’ll recall that I received an email simply asking me for information from my insurance provider, but going about it in a less-than ideal manner. Shortly after the initial email message, I received an apology email, which I took (and still do) as good form on their part. As we discuss this further, that’s one of the main points – if you do make a mistake, own it.
That, however, was the only point where I could say that the process went as it should. Why? Because at the time, I was still unsure as to what I had to do as a customer. The apology email, although honest and apologetic, still didn’t answer my main question. Here’s what it said:

“You may have received an email this evening with an incorrect or missing name. The problem was caused by an issue with our email program and we have taken immediate steps to correct it. Please accept our apologies for our misstep.”

I really appreciate the fact that an apology was issued. Rule #1 is be honest and apologize. How you convey that depends on the nature of your industry, and the relationship you have with your customers.

If you’re comfortable with it, saying “Oops, we made a mistake!” in the subject line can be tremendously effective. If your customers don’t expect that level of informality, you could be doing more harm than good. That said, apology emails in general see exceptional open rates – just don’t stray from your brand or tone.

As far as the body goes, same rule applies. Whether you want to offer a coupon or discount to make amends is up to you, but most of the time a simple “We’re Sorry” will suffice. If it’s a really big mistake, have an executive sign the email to show customers that you’re taking it seriously.

If there is any action required (or not required, as I would come to find out), explain it thoroughly. Don’t leave the customer hanging like in the email above, which is a perfect segue to my next point: Do not make your apology emails seem like a bland, cookie-cutter email. This goes hand-in-hand with the honesty part – your customers want you to care, so show them you do and take the extra time to craft a message that matters.

Last, but not least, whenever you can, keep your apologies short and sweet (like this blog post!). Own your mistake and move on and chances are, your customers will too.

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