Thursday, January 19, 2023

A Genuine Apology Goes a Long Way

Ben Cohen reports today in the Wall Street Journal about a remarkable apology email issued by Andrew Benin, chief executive of Graza, a startup that sells squeezable bottles of extra-virgin olive oil.  Unfortunately, the company did not cope effectively with high customer demand during the holidays.  Many people received their packages late, and some packages were damaged.  Customers complained of leaking olive oil bottles.  Cohen drafted a detailed apology and sent it to over 35,000 Graza customers.  Cohen described the rather unconventional email:

The mea culpa from a one-year-old company with the subject line “Learning from our mistakes” was just about the opposite of a typical corporate response. It explained in plain English and candid detail what went wrong and why. It took accountability for those errors and offered a discount on future orders. It was raw, transparent about uncertainty and messy with typos and misspellings. It was also oddly entertaining and strangely charming.

You can read the entire email for yourself if you view Cohen's article on the Wall Street Journal website.  Like Cohen, I found the apology very genuine and sincere, and it didn't feel as robotic as many corporate apology emails do (I could do without the spelling and grammatical errors though. I am a professor after all).  In Cohen's article, he cites author Marjorie Ingall's advice for issuing apologies.  

1. Say you’re sorry.
2. For what you did.
3. Show you understand why it was bad.
4. Only explain if you need to; don’t make excuses.
5. Say why it won’t happen again.
6. Offer to make up for it.

The six recommendations seems sensible.  However, the real reason for the effectiveness of the Graza email seems to be in the tone, not just the content itself.  You can do the six things above, and yet you may still write a robotic email that sounds inauthentic.  Did this email work? Well, 867 people actually replied to the email, many quite positively. One said, “Thanks for your honesty. I wish more businesses did the same.”

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