How Companies Can Screw Up in Style & Still Keep Customers Happy

Companies make mistakes. It’s part of doing business. It’s how companies handle mistakes that either cause their customers to adore them or form an angry mob and rise up against them. It happens.

Let’s take MailChimp for example. First off, I love the chimp. Mailchimp’s light-hearted approach to email marketing makes me happy when I login to any of the accounts we manage. I’ve been using their service for my own email marketing since the chimp was just a chimplet (yea, I made that up 😉 ) and I’ve personally never seen them screw up, but there’s a first time for everything – right?

So, yesterday one of our awesome clients forwards me an email she got from Mailchimp:

Email saying "oops we screwed up"

A lesson in how companies should react to their mistakes

We looked into the issue mentioned in the email that they said they broke, but there wasn’t any evidence that it effected her account. Testing proved everything was working just fine. Later in their email, they mentioned that they didn’t actually know which accounts were effected, so they had to send this email out to customers not knowing if they were effected or not.

At the very bottom of their email is perhaps the best part of the entire email – at least if you’re someone that specializes in online reputation management as I happen to (this just makes me happy).

We owe you one email

How companies can make up for their mistake online

Mailchimp is a company that gets it. They screwed up. But, they want to make it right.

They don’t know if our client was effected, but just in case she was, they wanted to offer her an olive branch. That’s right, they are even willing to give someone something on their word that they were effected; Because it’s just not worth the risk of losing a customer, or worse, to lose a customer and then have them badmouth the company online (because it will happen).

Lastly, you will notice that there is the option to comment via Facebook at the bottom of the email. This is a pretty gutsy gesture. If you were fearful that your customers were going to form an angry mob and blast you from one end of the internet to the other, the last thing you want to do is offer the ability to share socially. However, if you are proactive, it shows you care and customers are far less likely to go ballistic on you when you are genuinely trying to make it right.

And as you can see from their comments, customers have nothing negative to say :

Comments on Facebook post email

Comments on Facebook & Interaction from a brand representative after the “Oops” email went out

Note that if you are going to offer social sharing/commenting, you also need to be prepared to interact with your customers. Even if they have something bad to say. It’s better to have them say it in one place and get a reply from the source, than to have them posting it all over the place with no ability to mitigate the backlash.

The moral of this story ala Mailchimp’s example: Ignoring mistakes might have “worked” before the advent of social media, but ignoring your mistakes today means a potential social media backlash tomorrow. Be proactive, be realistic, make it right and beg forgiveness if you have to. Whatever you do; Don’t ignore your mistakes.

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