Mistakes Happen. Are You Prepared?


Kelly Lorenz

MistakeYou create a beautiful, well-designed email. You test the message for how it will render in the major email clients. You review and revise until you are cross-eyed. You hit the send button and sit back and breathe a sigh of relief. All of a sudden, your heart stops — the email went out with a mistake in it. Has this ever happened to you?

What do you do now?

First, relax. Mistakes happen. It’s what you do after the mistake that makes all the difference. Second, stop the send, if possible, so that you can correct the mistake and then send out the revised email to the remainder of your list.

Next, determine if it will be necessary to send a correction email. The only type of mistake that should warrant a correction email is one that impacts your business. A broken image may not necessarily need a follow-up email, for example. However, an incorrect phone number, wrong sale start date, or wacky HTML coding issue that causes the entire email to be unintelligible would certainly be cause for a follow-up correction email.

A recent example of a “must remedy” email was from Lindblad Expeditions, an expedition cruise line and Bronto client. Lindblad sent out an email promoting a cruise along the Danube. One of the ways to book is by calling an 800 number, making it vital to have the appropriate phone number in all promotions. Unfortunately, this email went out with the incorrect phone number. As soon as the mistake was realized, a correction email was sent out:

Lindblad apology

Here’s what Lindblad did really well:

1. Sent out a corrected version within hours of the original email. Timing is everything when a mistake is made. In order to reduce complaints and curb potential lost sales, send out a correction email as soon as possible.

2. Used the original subject line and appended with “Correction to” so that those contacts that had already opened the original message could quickly tell two things: First – that it was not a duplicate of the original email; and second – there was content from the original message that was incorrect and they should open the correction email to find out what the mistake was.

3. Placed the correction at the very top of the message in the preheader space so it couldn’t be missed.

4. Copied the original email beneath the correction so that if the recipients of the correction email hadn’t opened the original, they wouldn’t miss the content.

The only thing I’d have liked to see was the correction text in red or bolded or something along those lines to make it stand out from the rest of the content; but all told, Lindblad handled the situation like a champ.

The moral of the story is that after the storm passes, be sure to put a plan in place so that you are prepared when the next mistake happens. You want to be able to act quickly on an error to minimize damage. Have you seen positive results after sending a correction email?

Do you have any stories of your own where you saved the day after the mistake? Share them below.

Kelly Lorenz
Account Manager at Bronto

8 Responses to “Mistakes Happen. Are You Prepared?”

  1. Avatar

    This story relates to a Slate story on a new Gmail service internally called the “Gmail embarrassment reduction pack.” One of the services gives the sender 5 seconds after hitting the send button before the email is actually sent. Now, that’s obviously not a lot of time. But it may be just enough time to rethink sending an email out before checking it “one last time” for errors.


  2. Avatar

    All great info. Want to add…flubs like typos present a wide open opportunity to strengthen your brand with customers. When we goof up we generally hear from our fantastic customers…college students…pretty quickly. We respond to each individual who contacts us, hopefully with humility and humor. We acknowledge our goof up and work to communicate ourselves as human, real people who are passionate about our company and making a difference in the lives of our customers. They are most often very pleased and tend to stay in touch with us as a result.

  3. Avatar
    Kelly Lorenz

    Hm – I love that new gmail service. It’s great for that 3rd party to say “Are you sure? Are you really really sure?” to make you triple check before you send.

    Janet – I think this is a great idea if it’s scalable. It adds that personal touch and 1-to-1 communication that most marketers strive for. I know I would respond positively as well if I got an email from a live person saying “Oops!” Great practice, thanks for sharing!

    Thanks for your comments!
    Kelly @ Bronto

  4. Avatar

    With important e-mails or letters, always get someone else to check what you wrote before you send it.

    As the advertisement in the Australian advertising industry magaizine B&T once said: “WANTED. POOF READER.”

  5. Avatar

    Realizing that you have made the mistake before hearing from your customers (or not hearing from them, which is much worse) is key.

    I’m a big fan of reading and rereading and maybe even re-rereading. Between typos, poor word choices, and just plain carelessness, it’s too easy to send the wrong message. Email fails may be unavoidable sometimes, but when laziness is the cause, there’s just no excuse.

  6. Avatar

    These are great tips. We always pass around our copy to many people but once in a while a typo still sneaks through. We always find it good to be up front and honest if someone points out a mistake. It makes us seem more human as a company. Of course doing it all the time is just bad for business.

  7. Avatar
    Kelly Lorenz

    Great comments everyone.

    Chris – I remember that! At least they got their point across ;).

    Jay – It is key to catch mistakes before your customers, but if you can’t, providing an oops incentive could make up for any heartache your customers have. This is part of having that backup plan in case a mistake happens – you have to be ready to deploy a coupon, honor the mistaken deal (if it’s a better one), or the like.

    SimplyCast – Agreed that getting the copy in front of as many people as possible is important. Another element you do not want to forget is the design and rendering. A lot of mistakes are made where the design prevents readability or renders terribly in the major email clients. That’s why it’s also important to send test emails out as well so you are hitting all facets of the email.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  8. Avatar

    I had this happen to me just now and it gave me the biggest heart attack ever. Thank you for helping me un-freak out and resolve the issue!!



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