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How to Send a Correction Email: Quick Tips for Managing Those Occasional “Whoops” Moments

how to send a correction email

It’s the nightmare of any email marketer.

You set up your campaign, just like you have hundreds of times before. You run it through QA. Finally you schedule deployment and your email is sent to hundreds, perhaps thousands, even millions of people.

And that’s when the complaints start coming in: customer service calls, angry emails, confused Tweets. Something’s wrong with the email. A link doesn’t work. The subject line was accidentally worded in an offensive manner. It breaks on a certain email client.

When it comes to managing an email program, there’s a lot that can go wrong. And once you’ve sent out a faulty email campaign, there’s no taking it back.

Now what?

If the mistake was egregious enough or noticed by a large number of people, one strategy you can take to make amends and control damage to your brand is to send up a follow-up correction email.

But what should a correction look like, and what’s the best way to send that update or apology?

That depends entirely on your relationship with subscribers and the nature of the correction you need to make. But there are some near-universal best practices to account for when considering how to send a correction email:

1: Don’t Sugar-Coat It

If you’re going to send a correction email, go all-out.

There’s no need to make excuses or make up a story to shift the blame. Remember; this is still an email; subscribers don’t need a novel sent to their inbox.

Simply explain the error, own up to it, and make any necessary amends.Take responsibility in a humble, apologetic manner and with a tone appropriate to the severity of the mistake. A simple typo or mislabeled CTA could be approached with lighthearted humor, while sending offensive content or severely inconveniencing users should be paired with more serious, apologetic language.

Here’s a great example Herschend Family Entertainment shared with us when one of their properties accidentally sent out the incorrect link for a sale:

oops email example

It’s short and sweet, with just enough self-deprecating humor to cut the edge off. The brand went to great lengths to remedy the situation, providing a ridiculous amount of the corrected link and extending the offer to make up for any lost time and opportunity. And they fully own up to the mistake, without trying to change the subject.

“I loved the way this was written as it was calling attention to ourselves for making a mistake and putting less focus on the promotion itself,” said Matt Berry, Digital Marketing Manager for Herschend Family Entertainment. The message barely mentioned the sale, yet drove engagement and resulted in sales – possibly higher than the original email may have achieved on its own.”

Learn more about this oops email (and some of Matt’s biggest email success stories, in our recent interview.

2: Incorporate Dynamic Real-Time Elements

There’s no shortage of advanced email elements that make the question of how to send a correction email a little simpler. A few ideas/use cases:

  1. Embed an apology video and put a human face and voice to your correction
  2. Add a live feed of a social account that’s giving live updates on resolving the issue
  3. Offer subscribers a personalized coupon or special offer in email to make up for mistake
  4. Include a poll asking for feedback on how to make amends and avoid future issues
  5. Use dynamic images that reflexively adapt to the subscriber to give them a highly-personalized, one-to-one correction email experience
3. Don’t Abuse the “Oops”

Once you send a correction email, you might notice remarkably high open and engagement rates. That’s great—but it creates a dangerous temptation.

“Oops emails” regularly outperform regular marketing emails on most typical KPIs.

Like trainwrecks, people love to watch disasters unfold…especially when there’s a company taking all the blame. And there’s something disruptively and refreshingly relatable about making a mistake and apologizing. After all, who hasn’t sent out an email with a typo, or accidentally CC’d the entire office in a routine work reply?

Those sky-high metrics beg an insidious question: If apology emails perform so well, should email marketers consider making mistakes on purpose?

It’s a natural response for any results-driven marketer. But you should resist the temptation to make email errors and mistakes a regular part of your email strategy.

If you’ve been doing a good job of building subscriber relationships and creating a great customer experience, then your audience probably has a reserve of goodwill banked up for your brand. They’ll tolerate and overlook the occasional mistake if you’re humble and take steps to make amends.

But taking advantage of that goodwill can quickly backfire.

What started as a single innocent mix-up quickly becomes a pattern of negligence that’s disrespectful to your subscribers. That leads to increased unsubscribe and spam rates, not to mention a damaged brand reputation.

More Info on How to Send a Correction Email

Need some more advice or inspiration for crafting for your own correction campaign? Start with these resources: