Apologizing to a customer? Write it like you mean it

A colleague shared this e-mail she received from the company that hosts her website, which I’ll call ABC Web Host. While the intent of this e-mail is to apologize for an outage, it doesn’t sound genuine, and the order of information is all wrong.

Subject: Further explanation regarding May 20 outage

Dear ABC Web Host Clients,

(you are receiving this message because you have a current or past helpdesk account with ABC Web Host.).

We’ve assessed the circumstances around the db connectivity issues ABC Web Host experienced yesterday.  Apparently the server farm has misconfigured a block of IP addresses; something that went undetected until we ran out and requested a new block. The new block was configured correctly and this revealed the issue and broke sites using the problematic configuration.

XYZ Server Farm, Inc. (the worldclass service we employ to host our servers) has admitted culpability in this issue and given us their assurance that maintenance to check the current state of affairs as well as to put in place a tighter monitoring system so any similar outage will be discovered sooner, will be put into place today.

The total outage was approximately 20 minutes. We regret the inconvenience and understand there is no worse time to have an outage, of any kind, than at noon on a workday.  If you’d like further information or to discuss anything additionally please respond to this message and it will be directed to my attention.

Regards,

Jane Doe, CEO
ABC Web Host

Here’s why the outage apology e-mail just doesn’t work:

  • It’s been sent to too many or the wrong people. If you have to explain to me why I am receiving the e-mail, should you be sending it to me?
  • The tone is off-putting. I feel like a grim techie-lawyer is writing to me when I read phrasings such as “assessed the circumstances around the db connectivity issues” and “admitted culpability in this issue.”
  • The empathy is buried in the last paragraph: “We … understand there is no worse time to
    have an outage, of any kind, than at noon on a workday.” If you really feel my pain, let me know up front.
  • I can’t e-mail the CEO directly. How sorry can the CEO be about the outage if my e-mail will merely be “directed to” her attention?


My Rewrite of the Outage Apology E-mail

Subject: Apologies for May 20 service outage

Dear ABC Web Host Clients,

We’d like to follow up on and apologize for last Wednesday’s brief service outage. We regret the inconvenience and understand there is no worse time to have an outage than at noon on a workday.

Here’s why the outage occurred. The server farm we use misconfigured a block of IP addresses. This error went undetected until we ran out of IP addresses and requested a new block. The new block was configured correctly, which revealed the issue. Sites with the problematic configuration suffered the outage.

XYZ Server Farm, Inc.  (the worldclass service we employ to host our servers) has taken responsibility for this misconfiguration. They have assured us that today they will put a tighter monitoring system in place, so they can discover outages sooner.

We’re really sorry your site was down. If you’d like more information or want to discuss this, please contact me directly at JaneDoe@ABCWebHost.com and 800-555-1234.

Regards,

Jane Doe, CEO
ABC Web Host

What do you think of my rewrite? Let me know or try your hand at a revision and post it here.

— Leslie O’Flahavan

Comments

You know how much I love rewriting bad stuff, but I don't think I can improve on your revision. Well done! dbk

Posted by: David Kay | May 28, 2010 at 07:26:09pm

Your revised letter sounds like a conversation, not a stilted robot. Thanks for the good example.

Posted by: Tmresek | June 1, 2010 at 01:48:27pm

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