As a small business owner, chances are you have a million and one projects going at any particular point in time. Sometimes, mistakes are going to happen. But if you own and handle them in an honest way, they can get you some serious brownie points with your customers. Here’s a Grasshopper story that demonstrates just that.

Our Slip Up

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been testing an email campaign to brand new customers, which included using their first name. We set the email up to pull in first names from the list that was uploaded (known as a merge tag), but there was one problem - when we uploaded the list, the first names ended up not being included. Uh oh.

The email client we use had a default setting for a first name merge tag that wasn’t defined - which was “Customer”. So when we sent the email, we had a bunch of new customers getting an email which opened with “Hi Customer,”. Another uh oh. And an ouch.

After receiving the first few replies, we quickly realized our mistake. In our situation, there were two options:

For us, the first option didn’t even cross our minds. Customer support is super important to us, and we want our customers to know they’re not just a number. So, we got to work crafting an apology email to be sent out as quickly as possible.

The Apology

We wanted the email to be short and to the point, with a little bit of humor as mentioned above. We also made sure to fix the merge tag issue, so customer’s actual names were included. Here’s what the finished product was:

Subject: Well this is awkward....

Hi Mary,

Earlier today I sent you an email with our Getting Started guide, but may have accidentally called you “Customer” and not your actual name…oops. I was so anxious to get this resource out to you that I let my excitement get the best of me and made a mistake. I do know your names, I promise!

I hope you won’t hold it against me. I'm not a robot, I swear.

(A very sorry) Allison

Customer Engagement Manager

Short and sweet, and hits the main points:

All wrapped up in a humorous packaging.

The upside to all of this? We ended up getting some replies to it, and learned some interesting things.

What We Learned

Two interesting insights came out of the replies:

A lot of people didn’t even notice, or even really care..

“I actually didn’t notice. And I can assure you I have been called worse .. . ;-)”

“Don't worry a second - use the same technology.”

“What if I told you Customer was my nickname? Not a problem!”

Others really appreciated that we showed our personality.

“Not a problem, Allison, but thank you for the personal touch.”

“That is so nice of you, thank you.”

“Thank goodness you're not a robot! And thank you for confirming this truth!”

“Haha, you're awesome!!!!!! Don't worry about it!”

And a bonus reply, just because we loved it:

“So I should stop crying, holding myself, and eating chocolate??? Well OK then.”

These replies show that people are so used to getting sub-par customer service that they’ve come to expect things like emails that aren’t personalized. It’s the norm, which is sad (especially for customer service lovers like us). However, it also presents a really easy opportunity for you to wow your customers. It can also contribute to some killer word-of-mouth marketing, without having to do much work.

Mistakes Happen - Don’t Hide From Them

If you happen to make a mistake, don’t brush it under the rug. Everyone makes them! If you own up to it, and add your own personal touch, chances are your customers will forget all about your flub and focus on the positive interaction they had with you after the fact.

Have you ever made a mistake and spun it into a positive experience for your customers? Tell us about it in the comments!