It was Tuesday morning at 6:30AM, I was still in bed and I hear my cell phone ring.  That is never a good sign.  The head of our customer service group was calling to tell me that the email blast that had just gone out had a huge mistake.  The subject line for the email promised a 20% discount off any product on the website.  However, the body of the email had a great big message with a 12% coupon.  Not a good way to start my day.

What Happened?

We had a really cool segmented email campaign set for the week.  Customers who had purchased us within the last year were supposed to get a 12% discount (Max $50).  Customers who had actively engaged and opened our emails in the past year but hadn’t made a recent purchase were supposed to get an 18% discount (Max $35).  The 20% discount (Max $35) was supposed to be reserved for subscribers that we affectionately refer to as “zombies”.  They have not made a purchase or opened our email in a year and are on the verge of being cleaned from our list.

Only the zombies were supposed to receive the 20% discount.  However with all the verisons of the email something had gotten scrambled and now the cat was out of the bag.  It was too late to stop the send.  However there were a few things that we could do.

First – Change the Image Content

The first thing that we did was to try and limit the damage as much as possible by replacing the hosted image content on the server with something that matched the discount they were promised in the subject line.  However the problem was that the text of the email was still talking about a 12% discount.  I grabbed my team and we quickly put together a replacement graphic that would reflect both a 12% discount and a 20% discount option.  This is one of the fastest ways to fix an email blunder.  Change the image, flush the CDN and all people who open the email after that point will see the updated version.  At least customers who hadn’t opened the email yet wouldn’t be greeted with the completely wrong offer.

Corrected Email Image

Second – Update the Site (Quick) and loop in customer service

The next step was the update the site as quickly as possible so that the landing pages and click through messaging would reflect the new deal.  All of this was taken care of with relative ease and before 9:00 we had finished changing the image updating the site.  We also had a quick meeting with our customer service and inside sales managers to let them know what was happening and the temporary solution that we had put into place.

Third – The Oops Email

At this point we had a fairly good handle on the situation.  However, we couldn’t undo any potential damage that was done by people who opened the email first thing in the morning and saw the wrong messaging.  We had a decision to make. Do we send out a correction or do we just let things lie.   I had always heard that Oops emails can perform really well but hadn’t really tried one before.  Here was our chance.  This is what we did.

After doing a bit of searching around for subject lines and examples of other brands that had been in a similar situation we decided on the subject line “Oops! Were Sorry.”  Doesn’t get too much simpler than that and we hoped to use the curiosity to prompt users to open the email up and see what type of horrendous mistake we might have made.

Here is a copy of the email we sent.  Basically the same as our edited version above but with an apology at the top.

Oops Email MyBinding

Here are the interesting results that we got with this simple subject line and an oops email…

This was the open rate and click through rate of the original email.

Original Email Results

Now here were the results of the Ooops version…

Oops email results

Although the click through rate for the campaigns was similar.  The open rate was substantially higher yielding a large number of additional sessions from this email.  Even better, the total campaign performed 36% better than a similar campaign from a month before making it one of our most successful emails of the year.

Even though this “Oops email” worked extremely well I wouldn’t recommend using it often.  A major mistake in an email is still a mistake and can impact your customer’s view of your brand. Fortunately my retention specialist has informed me that this will “Never Happen Again”.  However, this experience has definitely taught me about the power of this type of email and the ability to make proverbial Lemonade out of Lemons.

Have you had a similar experience?  What type of results did you see?