You’ve likely received them, probably sent them, and we have definitely written about them. No, I’m not talking about a letter to Santa. I’m talking about that “oops” email that’s sent when something goes wrong. And inevitably, it will. At this busy time of the year, many companies fail to plan for those “uh-oh” moments. While typos or broken links can be avoided, other issues, such as a slow site or checkout processing errors, often can’t. You can try your best to avoid mistakes, but it’s imperative to recognize that they do happen and develop a plan for how to respond. Some of the most common reasons for sending an oops email include:
- An incorrect subject line.
- A slow site or checkout process.
- Broken links or your site not working as it should.
- The wrong promo code or a code that's not working.
During this season of increased email sends, comparison shopping, and quick purchasing decisions, not being able to quickly respond to a mistake may drive your customers elsewhere. So what can you do about it?
Be PreparedI recommend creating an oops message ahead of time. It’s also wise to create several messages that are specific to common issues. Include an editable section that can be customized without graphic resources, providing you the flexibility to customize it based on any issue that arises. You can even use some funny image or make it festive for the season. Here’s a great example from LinenSource: If you don’t have the graphic resources, or choose not to make light of the situation with a hero image, you can always send a text-only apology email. However, a text-only message can make it more difficult to incorporate your brand’s voice and personality into your apology. In this next example, Christopher & Banks immediately sent an email (Subject Line: Oops! Our Bad…) to inform their customers that their site was having issues. They provided a next step (we will notify you) and invited people to shop other areas (email has been truncated). They even included a screenshot of the original email. In the follow-up email, they used a playful subject line (Festive Friday is now Festive Saturday!), added a top banner stating the sale was back on, and extended the sale an extra day. This not only corrected the initial issue, but it also provided a value-add to the subscribers.
Oops ... It Happened! Now What?When you identify an error, first determine whether an email is necessary, especially considering your increase in send cadence this time of year. Do you really need to send a dedicated email for a simple typo in a subject line? Maybe not. But if the typo causes confusion or conflicts with the brand, it may be worth it. Regardless of the issue, be honest with your customers. If there were site issues, tell them. If it was a personal mistake, let them know. We’re all human, right? People understand that mistakes happen and are often quick to forgive, especially if it financially benefits them. In this example below from Whereoware, the seasonality of the text and the image really connect with the subscriber.
Say It With Your Subject LineWhen creating your Oops messages, be sure to create very clear, direct subject lines. Using the word “oops” is most common, but “we’re sorry,” “our mistake” and other similar words all work well. If you can’t customize the creative to directly address the specific error, you can do so with the subject line itself. Otherwise, leave the subject line as a simple “oops” and allow the message itself to explain further. Here are a few examples of actual subject lines I've seen:
- Oops, We Made a Mistake
- Our Sincerest Apology
- We Apologize
- Oops, XYZ.com is Back Up
- Oops, Take 15% off (with a working promo code this time)
- We’re Sorry. Let Us Make It Up to You