If you haven’t messed up yet, just wait. Mistakes are particularly painful when they directly impact customers.
How you apologize to customers will determine how those customers view you and your company for a long time.
Here is an email I saw from Backcountry.com after they made a mistake. Note the sincerity of the wording as you read:
We messed up. Yesterday, as the people of Alabama dealt with the devastating aftermath of an intensely damaging and life-taking tornado, we neglected to put a stop to the distribution of an email with the header: “Mother Nature hates you. Deal with it.” This was extremely insensitive and offensive, and we are so sorry.
Please accept our sincerest apologies for this mistake. What was intended to be witty marketing copy may have been when we wrote these words two weeks ago, but in light of current events and the suffering of people affected by Mother Nature’s wrath, it is not only not witty, it is completely unacceptable.
We at Backcountry.com send our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and to everyone now faced with rebuilding their homes and their communities. And again, we extend our sincerest apologies for our lack of foresight and our complete insensitivity in sending yesterday’s email.
Sincerely, Jill Layfield CEO Backcountry.com
What can you learn from this apology for the time you need to apologize to customers?
The Boss Apologizes
This email came from the CEO. Your apologies should likewise come from the top. Did this CEO write the original offensive email? Probably not. However, she took responsibility and apologized for the company’s mistake.
Explain What Happened
Give the background of what went wrong. Customers are very understanding when you explain the back story and “why” something happened like it did. Customers will realize that they, too, could have made the same mistake and will be more forgiving.
Admit Your Mistake
Don’t dance around the issue. Say you were wrong and that you messed up. The email above is very clear in owning up to the mistake. The wording is very humble and sincere.
Although this email is very strong in its wording, it doesn’t speak about the future. The unspoken assumption is that this won’t happen again. When you apologize to customers be sure you are clear how you will prevent this problem from happening again.
How you apologize to customers is vitally important to maintaining your relationship with them. Carefully word your apology and sincerely mean what you say.