Hey… we all screw up – Part 2

October 29, 2006

So, here’s what happened:

Email intended for 5 contacts instead sent to entire db of 50,000 contacts. Backlash was instant, and situation escalated. Customers and recipients irate, action stations taken to minimize customer unsubscriptions and service cancellations.

Here’s what we did:

  1. Responded personally to each and every respondent to the error campaign. Most were asking what happened, which was responded to candidly and to-the-point, citing the reason as human error. Others were much more cutting and venomous, but pretty spot-on considering what happened. These emails were again responded to in a calm, professional and open way, citing human error, apologizing, and ensuring that proactive measures were being taken to prevent this from ever happening again. Few of these respondents who were replied to actually bothered to respond again. I can take from this that the original response was satisfactory. These emails represented the panic station and damage control emails – those recipients who have the gusto and determination to reply indicates that they’re willing and able to take further action – be it cancel their account, unsubscribe from future campaigns, or contact someone of senior authority.It should be noted however that, although this was a mistake that should never occur again, there was a side-benefit that not one person could have anticipated. It turned out the original campaign (the mistake) actually generated such an interest in the product it was plugging to the original 5 tradeshow contacts, that we had one of the highest returns of interested leads and prospects of any other campaign we’ve ever done. This is not an exaggeration. It seems that besides those few who were genuinely annoyed, there were many more recipients that could look past the mistake and actually request more info on the product mentioned. A ‘mystery’ email campaign that can raise interest levels enough can actually elicit a response because it gets people thinking – what is this, it looks good, what can it do for me’. This was he first step towards saving my skin b/c of this mistake.
  2. And here’s where it all started to pick up. Besides the dozens of positive and interested leads that were generated from the error campaign, we also proactively sent another campaign, to the exact same list (the whole thing) that was an up-front, to the point, and essentially soul-baring email. The content included a candid subject line ‘Oops, we made a mistake’ and the content described what happened – a human error was made when trying to select dynamic segments so that we could further target the intended list for higher response. The apology campaign in effect doubled as a subtle product feature/benefit plug, which again got great response. As soon as the campaign was sent out, the positive (if not glowing) responses poured in, and the day was for now saved. Really, the amount of recipients who bothered to reply with a great reply and light humour was overwhelming. I think my pick of the bunch (and the bunch was huge) had to go to one woman who actually thanked us for the screw-up, as it clearly indicated that there was a human being behind the send button, not a machine. It made her feel better knowing this, knowing that we’re not so far removed from anything manual anymore that we’re still prone to making a totally human mistake. She’s right, I agree, and it made my day.

Hope it helps, and I hope you realize that any mistake is never a bad one, it’s how you deal with them that counts.

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One Response to “Hey… we all screw up – Part 2”

  1. man can i ever relate… We do lots of campagins for our clients and I always have a test list I send to first. However, by accident sent a test to the wrong group… Human Beings make mistakes.

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