Everyone makes mistakes. Every company makes mistakes. It happens. But what should happen after the mistake? Should apologies be made? How should the apology happen?
It’s not unusual for mistakes to happen inadvertently. This past holiday season Graza, a startup company that produced squeezable bottles of extra-virgin olive oil, made a mistake. It shipped holiday gifts late – and badly packaged – disappointing many customers and turning away prospective new customers.
The company’s chief executive decided to take the apology into his own hands and apologized to every customer who had purchased the products within the previous 60 days and asked for a second chance. He sent a 835-word apology to more than 35,000 customers. He wrote it honestly and didn’t worry about crafting the perfect letter. It came from his heart.
The results were also heart-warming. Within minutes of sending the message, hundreds of customers responded, thanking him for his honesty. Most of the customers also pledged to continue to support Graza and buy its products.
What makes a good apology?
- Say you’re sorry for what you did.
- Show you understand why it was bad.
- You can explain, but don’t make excuses.
- Say why it won’t happen again.
- And offer to make up for the mistake.
Mistakes happen. Apologies should follow.
How would you apologize?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Discuss what happens when a company makes an error in its marketing or business.
- Check out Graza’s website: https://www.graza.co/
- Show the Graza apology letter: https://s.wsj.net/public/resources/documents/GrazaApologyEmail.pdf
- Divide students into teams. Have each team research a time a company made a public mistake that annoyed its customers.
- Another example: Southwest Airlines flight cancellations over the holidays: https://www.npr.org/2023/01/04/1146865858/southwest-airlines-apologizes-and-then-gives-its-customers-frequent-flyer-points
- Now have each team craft an apology.
- Include the wording, the placement of the apology, and any potential remedies for customers.
Source: Cohen, B. (12 January 2023). What happened when the olive oil startup apologized. Wall Street Journal.