The art (or not) of the apology

Wednesday evening I read Apologizing like a human, not a corporation on the 37signals blog (which, of course, reminded me of the similar chapter in Rework). Good advice, seems like common sense.

On Thursday morning I received two apologies in my e-mail. One was a perfect example of apologizing like a human, the other not so much.

The first was from Boingo, apologizing for a rash of e-mails that erroneously went out to their customers. (A slightly modified version of this is also on their blog.)

Subject: An Apology from Boingo

Let me start this off with a big, fat apology.

We’re deeply sorry (and more than a little embarrassed) about any email you received over the weekend that included a database dump in the beginning and a message that your Unlimited account has been canceled and converted to AsYouGo status.

Please be assured that there’s been no change to your account. If it was Unlimited, it still is. If it was AsYouGo, it still is. If it was closed, it still is. The email was meant for internal testing only; the system basically decided otherwise and erroneously sent the test template to a large pool of our customers.

Please disregard these emails and accept our humblest apologies. If you would like additional details, please check our blog “The Hotspot”, which we will continue to update as we gather more information.

Thanks so much for your understanding during this awkward moment in email marketing history. We would never intentionally inconvenience you in any way and strive every day to deliver the best in customer service.

Honest, sincere. “We screwed up and we’re sorry.”

The other “apology” came from a customer service department in response to an e-mail I sent them about a glass picture frame that arrived snapped in two.

Subject: Recent order (#…) – Ticket# LTK…X

Thank you for your email notifying us that your package has arrived damaged. On behalf of UPS we apologize for the inconvenience this has caused as it most definitely left our warehouse in good condition.

We are initiating a damage claim with UPS. Please hold all merchandise and packing aside as UPS can and most likely will come to inspect it. They generally will contact you within 48 hours to make an appointment for inspection.

If you would take photographs of the damaged item, manufacturers box and the outer shipping box and email them to us, would help to expedite the claims process immensely.

Please note that the entire Claims process can take up to 10 business days for UPS to investigate.

As soon as UPS accepts responsibility for this, we will reship the items or issue a refund to your card as per your desire at that time.

If you are in dire need for the items, please call us to discuss reshipment options.

We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion. Please contact us if you have any specific questions.

Boilerplate, shift the blame, impersonal (the template response doesn’t even reference the “product”, a $5 picture frame.)  “Hey, it’s not our problem. We’ll tell UPS, but you need to figure it out with them yourself and then get back to us.”

My response was as straightforward and to the point as I could make it.

You’re kidding, right? Does Adorama really expect me to go through all of this for a $5 piece of glass?

I won’t waste your time with the rest of the “conversation”.  (I’m upset enough that I wasted my own time involved in the conversation). What it boils down to was,

“This is company policy. When UPS gets back to us, we will issue you a refund. In the meantime, please order another frame from us so you can receive it more quickly.”

Don’t hold your breath, guys.

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