Embracing Errors – How to Handle Mistakes and Apology Emails

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How to Handle Mistakes and Apology Emails

We’re all human – every now and then mistakes will happen. Making a mistake doesn’t have to be the end of the world though. There are many mistakes that can happen when you are writing your email, and how you handle them comes down to the severity of the error and your company. Take a look at some of these apology example emails and learn what you can do in the event of an email error.

Structure of a Writing an Apology

  • Apologise first and foremost.
  • Explain what and how the error was made. You may want to include how you plan to avoid further mistakes in the future.
  • Smooth things over, you need to make your subscribers forgive you. This could be including a discount or a special offer.


Following I will give you some examples of apology emails that I have encountered and how they were handled.

Missing a link

In this example, Creative Tacos sent out an email but the links were broken. Sometimes just resending the email with an explanation in the subject line can be enough. I would suggest this approach more so if the mistake is spotted within a few hours as people are more likely to recall the incorrect email. It’s no good sending this email a day after the incident.

Creative Tacos - Apology

If you have left it a little too late, or want to formally recognise what the issue was, you may want to go with this approach. If your company has a fun reputation you can go in with a bit of humour to lighten the mood. In the example below with Design Deals, they have acknowledged the error but also harnessed the opportunity to push their product and push more sales. They can get away with this, as the subscriber hasn’t really lost anything with this type of email and no harm was done. Design Deals have treated the rectifying email as more of an update rather than an apology.

Design Deals Apology

The down side is, missing links are a very common mishap when sending an email. However, it is so easy to rectify. Always test your email, it will save you so much embarrassment in the long run. This can be easily avoided within Maxemail as we have testing as standard.

Giving the wrong information

You may run into some instances where you need to apologise as you have sent an email to the wrong person. Take McDonalds example here, they alerted their subscribers that there would be a new Cheesy Bacon Flatbread coming to a McDonalds near them, but alas, it was not true!

McDonalds were quick to issue an apology for getting their subscribers hopes up. This wasn’t necessarily a bad email to send, I must admit when I saw the apology email from McDonalds I instantly read it as I was curious. In essence it actually got more people talking about it and discussing the product; excellent way to generate product awareness.

McDonalds Apology Email

McDonalds lays out their email well here. First of all, they apologise, then they state what they are apologising for. They inform us of the correction, and try to smooth things over by reminding us of the great other products they sell. If anything, it helps to promote their new product as now people will be more aware of its launch and be eagerly anticipating it.

A serious apology

Im referring to something as serious as a data hack. This is something you must rectify ASAP, and you must come clean to your customers. If you tackle it well, most people will forgive you, but some may leave. The worst thing you can do is do nothing.

An example is from Atlassian. First of all they come straight to the point to explain that there has been an incident and what has been affected. They look to reassure the user that they have not found evidence that serious data such as financial information, or any other products being affected.

They reassure the user that they have taken precautions and what they will need to do in the next steps with their account. This is good as it assures the customer that Atlassian is responsible and has taken appropriate action to fix the problem. The email is nicely signed off with an apology and what to do if you have any questions.

Design Deals Apology
The structure of this email is simple and to the point, and ideally it is pure text. Pure text indicates a serious matter, there is no need for illustrations in this type of email. The wording is also very formal and official, which is the type of tone you need to take with such a serious matter.

Should you always send an apology email?

Some companies are too quick to apologise when really there is nothing to apologise for. Sending out an apology email will always draw attention to what went wrong, but sometimes your subscribers may not have even noticed it.

I wouldn’t recommend sending out a full apology email for a tiny typo, it’s simply not worth it. Acknowledge internally that you can do better and try and avoid making the small mistake again. Instead you should focus on only apologising if the original email has caused significant brand damage and you need to act for damage control from annoying, angering or even offending your subscribers.

Lastly, I would recommend that you have an apology email template ready to go, you don’t want to be worrying about making sure your branding is correct, your links are up to date etc when it’s too late. You need to be able to react quickly to an error and creating all of this costs time, the sooner you get out your apology out the better!

About Nicola Lush

UX/ UI and Graphic Designer at Emailcenter.

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