Why saying sorry is a great marketing tactic

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m a huge fan of US t-shirt biz Threadless – and now it’s for more than their shirts and business model.

They had server issues during a sale – and instead of saying to their customers “too bad, so sad”, they’ve created a marketing opportunity & made themselves look good in the process.

Here’s what they said:

“Earlier this week, during your most crucial purchasing moments of our Spring Cleaning sale, we experienced some serious down-time. The frustration that many of you experienced while trying to make purchases is unacceptable and we promise to never ever let this happen again forever ever.

To allow you to make the most of the sale, our friends at Rackspace (the folks that host Threadless) are sponsoring five thousand $5 coupons on orders of $50 or more. The first five thousand people to use the coupon code ‘spring08’ during the Spring Cleaning sale will receive $5 off their order on top of the already discounted sale price. Time to go on a shopping spree!!!!

In addition to the $5 coupons and to make up for lost time, we are extending the Spring Cleaning sale until 11:59:59 CST on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008! The new shirts to be released on Monday will also be on sale!If you are interested in all the geeky details of what went wrong, please join Harper Reed, our CTO, in a live discussion of your questions and concerns…”

So first them empathised – great customer services. Then they told you what happened (and made sure you knew it wasn’t all them), then they’ve made a supplier cover their mistake AND offered their customers a special in the mean time, then they’ve extended their sale and then they’ve even gone a step further and allowed for full interaction by setting up a discussion with the IT department.

And how did it go down? Well, you can see for yourself, as this was a blog post. The vast majority of the comments went like this: “You guys are so nice. Not like them other nasty corporations.” and ” wow, yes.i already ordered 3 times,but i will definitely order again monday.

So next time something in your business goes wrong, don’t aim for a cover us and don’t ignore your customers. Work out how you can make them feel you’ve listened, acted – and then keep them buying more and talking about you to everyone they know.