The apology letter I’d like to get

Well, crap happens and today was my turn. I had scheduled a webinar with five fantastic panelists to discuss using margin of error with convenience samples. Hundreds of people registered. Many people personally emailed me to say how they were excited about listening in. And what happened?

Technical issues.

Of course.

I’ve used the webinar software many times before with no problem but still took the morning to practice several times. The panelists and I all logged in early to make sure our sound was good and clear. Everyone was ready.

And when the webinar started, the audience heard not a word. I couldn’t type in the question box. I couldn’t type in the chat box. Nothing. I had to cancel the webinar.

Upon returning to my desk, I found over a hundred emails from people wondering if the webinar had been cancelled on them, or if the technical issue was on their side or my side. They just didn’t know what was happening. Clearly, an apology was in order.

Dear InsertNameHere,
Unfortunately, our webinar experienced technical difficulties today. We are working carefully to resolve the issue and will reschedule it as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and we apologize for the inconvenience.

This is a very typical templated letter that any company might send so no worries there. It’s very formal and official, But boy, is it ever impersonal. And it just doesn’t sound like me. Here is what I actually wrote.

Dear InsertNameHere,
Thanks for checking in with me. I feel so terrible right now. We did a complete sound check ahead of time and the sound was perfect. Once the webinar went live, we lost all the sound and couldn’t figure out how to fix it.
We are going to reschedule and I’ll email you in case you’d like to give us a second chance.
I’m so sorry to waste your time today.

As you can see, the two letters are very, very different. The letter I wrote came from a human being. Me. I truly did (and still do) feel awful about disappointing hundreds of people. I didn’t know what the issue was but explained what I did know at the time. I know some people were inconvenienced. I know some people were annoyed.

Now, to be clear, I did copy and paste this message as a template. But I personally opened and read every single email. And I personally addressed each email. And I felt bad while I replied to each email.

And you know what happened? Many people emailed me back to say they were relieved to know that the technical issues weren’t theirs. Many people said they hoped the webinar would be rescheduled and that they were looking forward to it all the same. Empathy poured through.

I have to think that letting me come out in the email, rather than using a templated email, showed people that I cared. Perhaps treating each person who emailed me as human being relieved some of the annoyance.

It’s something to think about the next time you’re tasked with using a templated email. Maybe it’s time to drop the formal corporate talk and just say what’s in your heart.

Sorry 😦

(I’m still working on rescheduling the webinar and will leave a link here when I have it. Finding a time when five professionals can get together is tough!

**Here is the link to register for the re-scheduled webinar. THANK YOU for all the kind messages.)

2 responses

  1. Good for you for keeping it personal and human! It’s clear that you feel better about the way you addressed the issues than if you had sent the mass impersonal email. I’m so sorry that happened to you. While I can’t necessarily relate to a problem like that (although any one of us can experience that any time), I did a webinar recently for 150+ people during which I lost my voice! I had to surreptitiously try a cough drop while still talking, cough a couple of times trying to cover the mic, get sips of water and just press on. I’m so glad the audience couldn’t see my eyes watering and my face seven shades of red as I forced myself to talk! Oh well, all part of what keeps life interesting, right? Best wishes on your reschedule. 🙂

    1. Thank you. 🙂
      I feel a lot better now, and look forward to the rescheduled webinar running smoooooooth as nutella!

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