1. Shutterfly explained who the email was originally for.
2. Shutterfly acknowledged that the email was mistakenly sent to me.
3. The company acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue and that they may have upset me - even though it was not their intention.
5. The message came from someone very senior - the Chief Marketing Officer - whose responsibility this essentially was.
For me, the email brought closure about the episode and acknowledged any possible anger or sensitivity I may have had becuase of it. While I or other customers may not choose to engage in doing business with Shutterfly in the future, the apology email was the right first step to take in re-engaging and working to re-cultivate our relationship.
In learning from others, though, it seems that only some of my friends who received the original mistake email received the apology - clearly their lists are not very clean or accurate. Second, I am very curious as to know what actions they are taking to ensure that this never happens again - as mentioned in the email. This is a critical area for marketing automation platforms to improve upon. If you have ideas as to fail-safe ways of preventing this type of snafu, feel free to leave them in the comments.
At the end of the day, marketing mistakes can happen. Some small, some large - but they do occur - and inevitably a company needs to decide what to do. A poignant scene from the movie Apollo 13 comes to mind when employees are told to 'work the problem'.
While senior executives, PR, and marketing teams meet to figure out how to broadly address the blunder, customer service reps are often left to put out immediate flames by fielding inbound tweets and calls apologizing profusely to irate customers. These episodes bring out the best of customer service reps who take charge and can assuage customer concerns.
Ask questions such as how large was the impacted group? How egregious was the mistake? Did anyone take notice? Did we offend someone?
Once enough indicators convince you that you must take action, a whole new slate of questions must be answered.
How should we communicate the error? Do we acknowledge the mistake or just revise the communication? If we do apologize what specifically do we apologize for? Do we communicate the error with humor or with gravity? How does that fit with our brand and who our customer base is? How might the majority of our customers react to this type of message? How do we leverage our marketing channels - do we need to have different communications by channel? What are our customer service reps hearing and what are some successful ways they are dealing with the problem that we might be able to learn from to create a broad-based solution?
All these questions were probably considered in the 24 hours between Shutterfly's two emails.
The question now becomes - was that first apology action enough?
You may want to take things further and consider how this incident may be able to work in your favor? The error clearly got the attention of customers - so how can you use that attention to get people to engage with you in a more positive way?
This is where you may want to segment impacted customers such as the very irate customers vs. the mildly amused ones. How do you address one or both of those segments to hep them reengage with your company and possibly become even more loyal than before? Do you offer discounts, free trials, previews of new products in order for them to rediscover your products and services? Do you use it as a way to have customers engage with you via answering a question, getting more feedback, or creating an ongoing dialogue?
Asking these types of questions and following through on mistakes can be what separates a good company from a great one - not only acknowledging mistakes, but learning from them and using them in your favor to make things even better.