On September 10, 2012, a business tragedy rocked GoDaddy.com, the Web domain and hosting company. A severe service outage impacted many of their 5 million customers. How did the company respond? Perfectly!
CEO Scott Wagner sent an e-mail to each customer with a formal apology. Using Wagner’s own words, here are the seven steps every company should take to apologize to their customers as a result of a crisis:
1. Admit wrongdoing. “We owe you a big apology for the intermittent service outages we experienced on September 10 that may have impacted your Website, your e-mail and other Go Daddy services.” In this litigious world, it is never easy to admit when your company is wrong. This first step goes a long way with customers who value a company that actually takes responsibility.
2. Let them know this is serious. “We let you down and we know it. We take our responsibilities—and the trust you place in us—very seriously. I cannot express how sorry I am to those of you who were inconvenienced.” Customers rarely receive an apology by any company. This will immediately set your company apart from the competition.
3. Explain why it happened. “The service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and GoDaddy.com. We have implemented a series of immediate measures to fix the problem.” Customers want to know details on exactly what happened. It helps them actually empathize with your company and accept the outcome.
4. Reassure the customer. “At no time was any sensitive customer information, including credit card data, passwords or names and addresses, compromised.” This is what the customer really wants to know; was there a security breach and is there any permanent damage to their account?
5. Repeat your track record and commitment to learning from the crisis. "Throughout our history, we have provided 99.999% uptime in our DNS infrastructure. This is the level of performance we expect from ourselves. Monday, we fell short of these expectations. We have learned from this event and will use it to drive improvement in our services.” Show the customer that this is an isolated incident based on past history and how it will never ever happen again.
6. Give them financial remuneration. “As a result of this disruption, your account will be credited for the value of 1-month of service for each of your active/published sites. This credit will be available to you for the next 7 days. Please click the button below to redeem your credit.” Every customer loves a refund because it shows that the company is seriously taking responsibility. This cost of keeping that customer is much smaller than acquiring a new one.
7. Do not sweep it under the rug. “It's an honor to serve you. Thank you for the opportunity to re-earn your business and trust.” Don’t assume that your apology makes it “all better” and let’s get back to business. Tell the customer that you know it will take time to re-earn their trust.