The ultimate guide to sending an apology email

There’s nothing quite as bad as the feeling you get after sending out an email that has a mistake. Maybe the main link doesn’t work or there’s a misspelling in the main header. Sometimes we send out a poorly-timed message or one that’s flat out in bad taste. No matter if the blunder is great or small, you feel disappointed and – let’s face it – more than likely panicked.  A follow-up apology email is your best bet to righting the situation. That being said, there aren’t industry rules for how and when to send an apology email. Because of this gap in email strategy, we’re sharing our in-house, step-by-step checklist for sending an apology email. It will help you tackle this challenging aspect of email marketing in the least amount of time, effort and expense. Make no mistake: Apology emails are tough. But with a little guidance, they don’t have to be.

Deciding If You Need To Send An Apology Email

Even if you think you’ve messed up big time, it doesn’t mean your subscribers have caught on. When you realize a mistake has been made in an email campaign, don’t panic. Take a deep breath. After that first and most important step is successfully completed, gather your team to determine subscribers’ reactions to the mistake now or what they will be. Are they amused or upset? For example, if you sent someone a discount for his or her birthday on the wrong day, the subscriber is probably going to be charmed more than offended.  Other reasons you should hold the reins on hitting send:
  • Trivial mess-ups such as misspelled words or misplaced grammar don’t need to be addressed in an apology email. It’s better to leave them well enough alone than to draw attention to them in an extra email.
  • Broken link? Using our platform, you can change a link even after the email sends. Voila – no need for an apology email! If you don’t have access to a feature such as this, consider moving the content from the correct link over to a new landing page that has the URL of the “broken” link.
  • If you sent two of the same emails in a row, don’t worry about sending an apology email. You can address the mistake in a campaign the next day. Customers already received the first email from you, and their inboxes are loaded with emails. Are they really going to want to open another email from you, or are they going to kick you into trash or spam? Weigh the risks before making a decision.
Say you’ve determined an apology isn’t necessary from the subscriber’s point of view. You’re  not done yet. You must also consider the effect the mistake has on your business and what the company’s reaction will be. Are you blushing just a little or are you potentially going to lose a boatload of money?  Here are some tips on knowing the difference, and what to do once you’ve vetoed the decision to claim mea culpa:
  • If data has been compromised, this is a serious situation and should be addressed accordingly with your apology email.
  • If you sent a special deal (and it doesn’t work) to a select number of subscribers such as people in your rewards program or people who pay for a subscription to your emails, you definitely need to say sorry and make good on your promise.
  • Send an apology when there’s a significant typo for the price point. An extra 9 in $9.99 for a small commodity item won’t fly with subscribers. At the same time, leaving just one zero out of $1,000 would mean giving away your revenue.
  • Send an email to the wrong list? Don’t send an apology email to everyone. People from the correct list may be on the list you sent to, in which case they received the email they were supposed to. Suppress anyone from the wrong list who is on the correct list when you send this apology email.

Timing is crucial to make a decision about sending an apology email. In some cases, the more time lost, the more customer frustration grows or money goes down the drain for you. 

It’s essential to make a decision about sending apology emails as quickly as possible; however, don’t rush. 

Sometimes it will be apparent you need to send an apology, and other times the decision-making process will be murky. Although you need to make a timely decision, take the time to make sure it’s the right decision.

Content To Include In An Apology Email

Once you’ve determined you need to send an apology email, it’s time to work on content. Hopefully, you have a branded template already set up to use, but if not, create a simple template. 

As you write the content for the apology, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make it clear in your subject line there’s been a mistake and you’re sorry. Now isn’t the time to show off your wit. Respect subscribers’ time and get to the point.
  • Use strong subject lines. Although saying, “Oops!” tends to be a favorite, it’s overused. Be more creative or more sincere. A simple, “We apologize” works well.
  • Don’t send an apology message with a shady “no reply” sender address. Make sure subscribers can reply with a message to someone who actually works for your company. Have that person monitor his or her email address for comments or complaints.
  • Be brief. Keep your apology message short. One email, one headline, and a few lines of text is all that’s necessary to pull off an effective apology.
  • The email should match your brand, not only in creative and design, but in tone and copy. Be careful with humor – people may become more annoyed with you. Being sincere is your best bet.
  • Don’t play the blame game and push the mistake off on someone else, even if it is his or her fault. Owning up to the mistake will ultimately make you look better in the eyes of subscribers.
  • If you can, compensate subscribers for the inconvenience of the wrong message, e.g. a coupon or discount.
  • Proofread. Have several sets of eyes look at this email. You don’t want to send an apology email rife with its own mistakes.
  • Consider having it signed by a company executive. The apology will carry a lot more weight for bigger boo-boos.

After you hit send on your apology email, it’s important to continue monitoring your social media sites, as well as your support, customer service, or general information email addresses. 

Tell the team members who respond to these email addresses about the problem, and forward them a copy of the apology email you sent. Make sure everyone is ready to respond quickly with an additional apology and the corrected information.

How To Avoid Sending An Apology Email In The Future

Just because you sent an apology email doesn’t mean you’re done. 

There’s lots to do in order to diminish the chance of messing up again and having to send another apology email in the future:

  • Measure the impact of the apology email you did send to see how effective it was with subscribers. Keep an eye on opt-outs and spam complaints.
  • Conduct a post mortem to see what happened and how to prevent the same problems in the future.
  • Create an action plan for determining when an apology email is needed, and to whom responsibilities will fall. Discuss the plan with your team and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Establish processes about proofreading and approving emails if they’re not already in place. It may be beneficial to have two or three team members look over important emails before they go out.
  • Create one or two apology email templates so you can quickly respond to errors in the future.
  • Test every email before you send it. Click all the links and read the content out loud. Testing can help you catch typos, broken links and other errors.

No one is proud when they have to send an apology email. However, everyone is capable of making mistakes, and email marketing is no exception. Save the day by sending a clear, professional apology email.

If you need help creating a custom template or brainstorming templated copy, reach out to our team today. Or if you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, take a peek at our easy-to-use platform. 

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