Tips on Sending an Effective Apology Email

Posted by Michele Shubert on October 10th, 2011

apology emailsUh-oh. You sent the email. And then you noticed the mistake. Oops! Now what?!

Mistake emails happen to all digital marketers. Even well-known, experienced marketers mess up. Of course, we don’t plan to make mistakes. But when a mistake happens (and it will), what is most important is how you respond — and how quickly you respond — after you realize the email is wrong.

Not long ago, I sent an email to a freshly uploaded list and noticed several replies come in within minutes after the email was deployed. The first was from Robert asking why his email salutation was to Stephanie. Another was from Victoria, wondering why she was being addressed as Anthony. Uh-oh. After checking the data, I realized what had happened — the entire list had been incorrectly sorted and the uploaded data was mismatched. Wait! Undo!

There’s no undo when it comes to email marketing. You can’t take it back. You can, however, apologize. And if you do it right, you can make it work in your favor.

Soon after discovering what had happened, the recipients of the blundered email received a follow-up with an apology explaining that the mistake was due to our (my) human error. What amazed me were the replies we received after sending the apology. One said, “At least now I know you’re human!” Another recipient admitted, “I didn’t open the first email you sent. But when I saw a second email from you with ‘correction’ in the subject line, I opened and read the message and was impressed by your honesty.”

What you do after a mistake is made is what matters. First, decide whether your mistake merits an apology. I mean, do you really want to send a second email because of a tiny typo that most subscribers will overlook? If the mistake is not a big one, it might be better to avoid pointing it out.

Here are some tips on sending an effective apology email:

  1. Send the apology as soon as possible after you discover the mistake.
  2. Indicate it’s an apology/correction in the subject line.
  3. You may only need to add a paragraph at the beginning of your original email content; more serious mistakes may call for a dedicated apology.
  4. Be sincere and true to your brand. You can use humor to poke fun at yourself or make light of your goof. Or, if that doesn’t fit your brand’s personality or the seriousness of the error, just be honest and admit you messed up.
  5. Keep it simple. You don’t need to go into detail about what went wrong.
  6. If the mistake inconvenienced your subscribers, make it up to them by including an offer.
  7. Make sure your apology email is free of mistakes!

Have you found yourself needing to apologize for an email mistake? How did you handle it? Please comment with advice or tips you think might help other email marketers.

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  1. [...] email received a follow-up with an apology explaining that the mistake was due to our (my) human error. What amazed me were the replies we received after sending the apology. One said, “At least now I [...]

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