Damn Good Communication: A Clever Way to Say “We Goofed Up”

Ali Murray Fun Stuff

Work mistakes happen.

You make a typo in an important document, you accidentally hit reply all, you put decaf coffee into the regular coffee pot–we’ve all been there. And life goes on.

However, if your misstep somehow affects your customers, it’s important to apologize quickly, clearly, and thoughtfully.

One company that understands this is Paperchase, an international stationery company that discovered a significant typo in a printing of their 2018 diaries, and came up with this clever solution to the problem:

There are two things in particular we think makes this insert a successful communication:

#1. The tone of the writing

This is a corporate apology that feels like a personal note from a funny yet professional human being, not some mandatory communication from a company lawyer.

How do the folks at Paperchase pull it off? They use conversational language, including words like “a little red-faced” and “oops”. They aren’t afraid to make a time-traveller joke at their own expense. And instead of sharing the bare minimum and getting it over with, they’re unusually transparent about the rationale behind their decision to sell these diaries despite their flaws. As a result, they come across as thoughtful and trustworthy. Which is what you want.

#2. The look and feel of the insert

Paperchase could have decided to include a tiny note you’d only notice if you opened the diary, avoiding drawing attention to their mistake. Instead, they went big and owned it.

The big “OOPS!” that sticks out from every planner is impossible to miss, and suggests that the company cares more about being honest with their customers than they do with saving face. And by deciding to make the insert a playful hot pink, the designers successfully keep the the focus not on the mistake itself but instead the fun, surprising reward that the mistake led to: a perfectly good diary at a discount! What’s not to love?!

Anyway, good on you, Paperchase, for giving us some apology best practices we can take with us into 2108…and beyond!


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