Last week, we talked about how to handle situations when your customers complain about a product defect, such as, “How come when I use your curling iron, it causes my hair to evaporate?” Of course, the best policy is to blame the problem on the customer or someone else – when in doubt blame it on al Qaeda terrorists … or Congress. You can read last week’s brilliant business advice here.
When all else fails you may have no choice but to eat crow and admit some eensy weensy tiny bit of responsibility for the problem, such as “in rare cases, some inconclusive studies have suggested that there could be a remote chance – and by remote we mean almost less than 50% – that our artificial sweetener could cause an eensy weensy tiny bit of permanent blindness and complete hearing loss in Hispanics and Pacific Islanders under the age of 70.”
In these situations, you need to craft a very carefully worded, corporate earnest and sincere apology letter – one that comes from the heart, with sincerity and earnestness – preferably ghostwritten by a professional apology letter writer in a high-priced Manhattan PR firm, who knows just the right caring words to say in order to avoid a costly class action lawsuit.
When crafting your company’s sincere official apology letter to customers, make sure it contains all of the following six elements:
Corporations do a lot of things well, but one thing that some of them could use a little help with is how to say I’m sorry when they screw up. Historically, like George Bush, most companies are not very good at saying “I’m sorry. I screwed up.” Recently some very familiar names have been getting a lot of practice in the fine art of the apology: Toyota, BP, Goldman Sachs, Apple Computers, anyone who has ever held public office in the state of Louisiana, and for my friends in Seattle who follow baseball, the 2010 Seattle Mariners. You see, corporations aren’t perfect. They’re human, just like you and me (at least according to the U.S. Supreme Court).
As most of you know by now, I am an award-winning business expert. (And by award-winning, I’m referring to the time I won a white ribbon – fourth place – in my tenth grade business project for my idea of starting a company that sold over-priced coffee with fancy names in stores with dim lighting, smooth jazz and wireless Internet. Curse you, Howard Shultz.) I want to help those entrepreneurs who are planning to make a bone-headed business decision by offering you my expert counsel on the steps required to effectively apologize for your future mistakes.
Corporations don’t intentionally set out to anger and alienate their customers – unless they’re a healthcare insurance provider, that is. Usually it’s just that a good idea gets implemented poorly. Or some unintended consequences occur which nobody in the marketing department could have possibly anticipated. Like when that cereal company – whose name will be withheld so they won’t sue me – decided to do a promotion with a national hardware chain – whose name will be withheld so they sue me either – and they decided it would be a neat idea to include a packet of one-inch nails in every box of say, Fruit Loops cereal. Who knew that the folks in production would forget to actually put the nails in a pouch to keep them from separate from the actual cereal contents?
For families everywhere the arrival of September means “welcome back to reality” time. School starts this week for most American teenagers, and summer is rapidly vanishing in the rear view mirror. If your summer was like mine, it won’t make for an enthralling Holiday letter come December – which is why when it comes to retelling the highlights of your summer vacation, if you weren’t able to afford an exotic, envy-inducing summer vacation, then at least make sure you have an exotic, envy-inducing story about your summer vacation.
When it comes to summer breaks, our family’s summers are consistently quite lame. Take this past summer, for instance. It consisted mainly of listening to our girls whine “there’s nothing to do” and “I’m boooooooooored” – God knows, life is boring when you live in the scenic Pacific Northwest with all its mountains and lakes. Heaven forbid your kids actually go outdoors, ride a bike, swim in the lake or clean their room.
As any loving parent would do, in an effort to insulate ourselves from their constant whining and badgering to “take me to the mall” or otherwise entertain them, we loaded up our kids’ summer with a series of week-long summer leadership / character-building camps and a couple of obligatory annual pilgrimages to visit elderly relatives. That’ll teach ‘em to whine about being bored.