How to Ruin Your Reputation In Just One Email Thread

So I’m sitting in my office preparing marketing copy for my How to Respond to Customer Emails web training event when my Assistant walks in, takes over my computer and Googles something about an email thread gone wrong. She eagerly tells me about a company’s email thread with a customer that is so shocking that my jaw dropped several times and I found myself saying, ‘wow’ and ‘whoa’ over and over as I read the email thread. My Assistant tells me, “You have to include this example in your webinar!”

The customer in this story emailed the company to get an update on the shipment of his order. The customer service representative replied to the customer’s email simply with a date. No sentence. No explanation. No “thank you for your email.” The reply to the customer read, “December 17th.” Totally unacceptable, in my opinion.  Not only is the email cold and unprofessional, but it lacks clarity. Does the order ship on December 17th? Will it arrive on December 17th? Who knows? As bad as that email was, it gets worse. Much worse.

When the customer emails with a follow-up question, here’s what he got from the company:

“Things happen in manufacturing if your unhappy you have 7 days from the day your item ships for a refund. You placed a pre order just like any software title the gets a date moved due to the tweaks and bugs not being worked out and GameStop or any other place holds your cash and im sure you don’t complain to activision or epic games so put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else. The benefit is a token of our appreaciation for everyone no one is special including you or any first time buyer . Feel free to cancel we need the units were back ordered 11,000 units so your 2 will be gone fast. Maybe I’ll put them on eBay for 150.00 myself. Have a good day Dan.”

This response is filled with grammatical and spelling errors and I’m sure the tone of the communication is not what the company intends to convey. But it seems the representative simply took matters into his own hands.

The email thread goes on to be even more appalling with comments from the rep like this:

“We do value our customers but sometimes we get children like you we just have to put you in the corner with your im stupid hat on. See you at CES , E3 , Pax East ….? Oh wait you have to ask mom and pa dukes your not an industry professional and you have no money on snap you just got told.”

(If you are interested, you can read the full transcript of this utterly unprofessional conversation right here.)

Don’t let an email from an untrained employee ruin your credibility and threaten your company’s reputation. Give employees training on how to communicate with customers over email. Responses must be professional. That means we write in complete sentences and we focus on being crystal clear. It means we carefully check our emails for spelling and grammatical errors. It means we are careful never to insult a customer, a vendor, or our own company. It means we treat customers like they sign our paychecks. It means we never put anything in writing that we wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing blasted in social media. Because, believe me, a bad email will end up on Twitter, blogs and FaceBook.

Don’t let a bad email happen to your company! Join me for my famous “How to Respond to Customer Emails” webinar so I can help you avoid nightmares like this one.

How to Respond to Customer Emails

The emails you send say a lot about your company.

Are you sure yours send the right message?

February 16th, 1:00 – 2:30pm ET

Read the full “How to Respond to Customer Emails” web training outline right here.

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JCPenney WOWs Customer with Empathic, Heartfelt Email Response

How a QVC Rep WOWed Me – 4 Great Tips for Email and Chat Service

JCPenney WOWs Customer with Empathic, Heartfelt Email Response

A few years ago one of my clients sent me a copy of an email she’d received from JCPenney Portrait Studio. My client, Angela, had taken her 2-month old daughter to the studio to have her very first professional photo taken. Though Angela had an appointment, she, her husband and infant daughter waited for more than 45 minutes past their appointment time.

As you can imagine, 45 minutes of waiting with a 2-month old is challenging. Angela said that by the time they got in the studio for photos, her daughter was tired, cranky and hungry. Because of her daughter’s understandable disposition, they just couldn’t get a quality photo of the precious baby girl. Angela went home and emailed JCPenney to express her disappointment. Forty-eight hours later Angela received what she described as “The best customer service email I have ever received.”

Here’s an excerpt from the original email Angela received:

“As a mother of three children, I can certainly understand the frustration and disappointment you had with having to wait so long and then not having the quality sitting you are entitled to.”


That WOWed me too. This representative related to Angela and responded with sincere empathy. That really resonated with Angela.

Take a look at how the representative offered a recovery and apology:

“You will be receiving a letter for four free sheets of portraits at a future sitting as a way of apology. I realize that this does not make up for the time and effort already spent with all of this but I do hope that it does in some way show how truly regretful I am.”


Don’t you just love that last sentence? “I realize that this does not make up for the time and effort already spent with all of this but I do hope that it does in some way show how truly regretful I am.” The representative is offering a personal, heartfelt apology.

Click image to read entire email response from JCPenney


The bottom line: When you are responding to customer complaint emails, take the time to express sincere empathy by relating to the customer and responding based on this empathic relation. Also be sure to always offer a heartfelt apology. When you do, you will not only solve the problem the customer experienced, but you will restore their confidence and regain goodwill.

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches, and phrases to help your employees help your customers.

Excellent Problem Response Letter From American Airlines

Watch my full customer recovery video to get 5 steps for restoring customer confidence after service failures.

How Southwest Airlines Rebuilds Trust After Service Failures

Explaining Why/How a Problem Happened Helps Companies Regain Goodwill and Rebuild Trust

A vital, but often overlooked element of customer recovery is to provide an explanation for how or why the problem happened. Taking the time to explain to a customer what might have caused the problem helps organizations re-establish trust.

 Explaining to customers what might have caused the service failure may (also) enhance customer satisfaction.  Similarly, in the service recovery context, open communication may alleviate customers’ bad feelings about the service failure

 Hui Liao

Providing an explanation can be as simple as saying, “Thanks for taking the time to let us know about _____. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.  Here’s what we think may have happened…”

In my “Before You Hit Send” email webinar, I teach people to carefully acknowledge and explain the issue via email immediately after apologizing. The placement and wording of the justification is critical. Here’s the example justification from Southwest Airlines I will share in Friday’s webinar. This is a portion of a full recovery letter. The paragraph shown here is a very good justification of the problem and it comes immediately after an apology.

“Shortly after takeoff, the Pilots received a low pressure indication for one of the two independent hydraulic systems (A&B) on the aircraft. In response to this situation the Captain returned to have the aircraft inspected. In this case, the problem was with the A hydraulic System – there was a fluid leak. After speaking with our Maintenance Department, I learned that the supply line which helps operate one of the movable panels on the aircraft’s wing surface was leaking hydraulic fluid, and as such, the corresponding line was then replaced to fix the problem.”

 Click on image to read the entire Southwest letter

The goal of complaint handling is to completely restore customer confidence and regain goodwill. A critical element of restoring customer confidence is to offer a justification for why/how the problem happened. Make sure your employees carefully offer a justification to your customers after service failures and you’ll begin to rebuild customer trust and regain customer goodwill.

For help with complaint handling over email, consider my Before You Hit Send webinar. We’re broadcasting live Friday, March 11th at 1pm ET. The recording will be available for those who can’t attend the live event.

How to Be a Fantastic Chat Agent

I recently chatted with a QVC Customer Service Representative about the status of a product return. I only wanted to confirm that my return was received, but I walked away from the chat session with a Beyond WOW reaction. The WOW started with this message from the Representative:

 “Ms. Golden, I’m so sorry the Canon Vixia HV30 MiniDV HD Camcorder hasn’t been processed as of yet.  I know you’re anxious to have this completed.  The return processing time can take up to 17 days from the date an order is returned to QVC.  I hope your item is processed soon.”

QVC ChatFour important things happened here. And when you do these four things in your chat interactions, you will deliver a fantastic chat experience.

Continue reading “How to Be a Fantastic Chat Agent”

Before You Hit Send!

Before You Hit Send!

3 Rules to Protect Your Company from Broken Relationships and Lawsuits

Email was created to make our lives easier, but bad things happen over email every day. Conflict, broken peer relationships, and lawsuits are now regular occurrences as a direct result of improper email usage. Over 90% of business communication is email based, yet studies show that less than 10% of companies provide training to help their employees use email properly.

In a landmark case, an oil giant paid $2.2 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit over its email content. The suit alleged that the company allowed its internal email system to be used to transmit sexually offensive messages, including a “joke” sheet titled “25 reasons why beer is better than women.”

Training on email usage can dramatically reduce an organization’s risks associated with improper email usage.

Before your employees send another email, they need to know these 4 things:

1. Inform Employees of Legal Risks of Email

Don’t give employees email access until they know the legal risks of email. Email is a business communication tool and your employees are obliged to use this tool in a responsible, effective and lawful manner. Your employees need to know that if they send or forward emails with any libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks, they and the company can be held liable. They must also be informed that unlawfully forwarding or copying messages without permission is illegal and they and the company can be held liable for copyright infringement.  The legal risks of email usuage need to be included in the company’s email policy and employees should sign a declaration stating they have read and understand the policy.

2. Don’t Use Email to Give Bad News

Email communication should be used to exchange information, answer questions, and generate action. It is not appropriate to use email to deliver bad news of any kind. Recipients cannot discern the sender’s emotion and true intent over email and as a result, miscommunication and emotional responses may result. When you have to deliver bad news, opt for a face-to-face or telephone meeting.

3. Don’t Fan the Flame

While you may or may not have heard the term “Flaming,” you very likely know what it is. Flaming is the misinterpretation of the content of an email message that results in a verbal attack over email. Basically, it’s childish bickering in the workplace. Flaming happens every day in corporations and it results in broken peer relationships. Not only is the act of flaming irresponsible and dangerous, but the impulsive email responses can be forwarded or printed out and attract a level of importance and attention that was never intended. So how do you deal with flaming? Resist the temptation to “fire” off a response, re-read the person’s email, take a break before responding, or just pick up the phone to handle the situation.

Email can be great tool that saves time and gets things done. Or, it can lead to lawsuits and broken relationships. Establish rules and educate employees on the rules, especially the legal implications, and email will bless you rather than curse you.

Before You Hit Send Webinar

How to write business-friendly emails that create emotional connections with customers and leave customers saying “WOW!”

View outline/purchase

 Sources cited:

 “You’ve Got Email and a Lawsuit on Your Hands”:

 “Sample Email Policy”:

Before You Send That Next Email…read this.

***Live webinar***

Before You Hit Send: How to write business-friendly emails that create emotional connections with customers and leave customers saying “WOW!”

Friday, September 17, 2010 1:00pm – 3:00pm ET

Find out how to amaze customers, your boss, and most of all, YOURSELF by crafting emails that are personalized, use emotion to connect with customers and leave customers saying “WOW!”

I promise, after attending BEFORE YOU HIT SEND!, you will be inspired and thrilled with how quickly you can craft an email that answers ALL of your customer’s questions and engages the customer through personalization. And once you’ve gotten a taste of how it feels to constantly WOW your customers and IMPRESS your supervisors by creating warm experiences and delivering solid customer service over email, you will be completely STOKED!

Creating memorable emails using the BEFORE YOU HIT SEND! method is CLEAR, CONCISE, and geared to give you QUICK RESULTS that will keep you engaged and excited about your new e-service skills.

Get the full story here.