Darcy Grabenstein

Darcy is a freelance copywriter, email marketer and PR consultant.

When Things Go Wrong: Handling Apology Emails

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Darcy Grabenstein
is a Freelance Copywriter and a Digital Account Manager at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks.

As email marketers, we cringe over what can possibly go wrong with our deployments - typos, broken images, broken links. And we lose sleep at night over the even bigger bloopers - missing or expired promo codes, products that sell out before the promotion is over, website glitches and more.

Let’s face it - it’s not the end of the world (although it could be the end of a job, depending on the severity of the error).

What resonates with customers, however, is how your company handles such “whoopses.” A sincere apology – especially when combined with an additional offer – can go a long way to restoring trust in a brand.

In this example from Rocawear, the company speaks its customers’ language with “Our Bad!” The subject line – We Apologize - Take An Additional 10% Off – gets right to the point. What I find interesting is that Rocawear did not remove its sharing link at the bottom of the email. (Of course, promo codes like this end up on sites like RetailMeNot anyway.)

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Humor can help turn a negative into a positive. This Forever 21 email is the cat’s meow:Darcy2dec

And this Lily Pulitzer email combines humor with genuine appreciation of its customer base:

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Sometimes an apology is expected/demanded, and sometimes it’s just a “nice to have,” as in this email from Bargain Catalog Outlet. When an item is unavailable, it’s more of an annoyance or inconvenience, so an apology email is simply a value-added gesture. The subject line draws you in: Ooops! Didn’t Get What You Wanted? … Please accept $10 OFF your order*. (However, not sure I’d include the asterisk in the subject line.)

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Put “OOPS” in the subject line and you’re certain to attract attention, as in this one from Skis.com: OOPS - we didn't mean to send that last email

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The use of a Post-It® note in the email design is a cute way to say “We screwed up.” Skis.com does eventually apologize, inserting a bit of humor, but doesn’t include any special offer to make up for the mix-up. (I do wonder what the previous email said, though.)

From a public relations perspective, your mea culpas shouldn’t be limited to email alone. If the problem affected a majority of your customers, such as the site was down, an apology on the home page is probably a good idea. Your customers probably will take to the social networks to air their grievances, so you should moderate these and respond when appropriate.

Sorry if I got a bit long-winded here, but it’s an issue that I am passionate about. Forgive me?

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Guest Saturday, 20 September 2014