Great example on how to apologize. Also, how to own your problem.

After the Cooks Source fiasco discussed here and other posts, it is delightful to see a company that knows how to apologize and takes clear ownership of their problem.

37signals provides a number of collaborative software products.  I don’t use their services, but I thoroughly enjoyed a book they wrote on the lessons they have learned in their business.  Enjoyed it so much I wrote an Amazon review, which I discussed here.  I read their blog everyday.  I heartily recommend it.

Anyway, last November and December their flagship program had a lot of intermittent outages.

That is a bad thing for a service that customer use for their own instantaneous communication and project management.  Very bad.  You can read their story in the article How to Turn Disaster Into Gold.

What is educational for us is that they apologized directly.  None of this “I apologize for any inconvenience” stuff.

Even more educational is how they handled the communication. They addressed all the twitter comments. They responded to all the e-mails. They explained clearly on their blog the status and what progress they were or were not making.

When the problem was fixed they gave a non-technical explanation of what happened, since not every customer is a techno-geek.  For the geeks, the second half of that post gave the detailed explanation.  Wow.  Explaining what went wrong in your product.  And what you have done to prevent it from happening again.  And using words that both the non-technical and technical customers would understand.  (I’m obviously in the no-so-tech category because I understood the first part of the post but barely got anything out of the second part.)

Oh, and to put some punch to their apology, they offered a free month of service to subscribers.  Why?  They said they didn’t earn their money that month.

The result?  It looks like 37signals has higher standings with their customers after the fiasco than they did before.

I rarely quote blogs or magazines.  However, I will do so now.  One of Jason Fried’s comments in the Inc. article is a superb lesson for us:

“People don’t judge you on the basis of your mistakes—they judge you on the manner in which you own up to them.”

Check out the full article at Inc, by the way. It’ll be worth your time.  And check out the 37signals blog, Signal vs. Noise.  Would be worth your time to add them to your RSS reader.

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