Now here’s how you write an apology…

On a recent trip to her local cinema, a good friend of mine had to abandon the film half way through because a fight broke out between other customers. Horrific, eh?

So she contacted Curzon, the cinema operator, via its website. She was hoping for a refund but didn’t really expect to hear anything back.

Soon afterwards, however, she got an email from Nigel Stowe, Director of Operations at Curzon. Nigel’s letter thoroughly delighted her – and we can see why. It’s a great example of how a well-executed apology can translate a disaster into customer loyalty.

Some of Nigel’s punctuation and phrasing might cause Lynne Truss to huff and puff, although personally I think it rather adds to the charm and naturalness of the email.

Either way, you can’t deny Nigel knows how to say sorry. Read and learn.

Dear Ann

I am writing regarding your visit to Wimbledon curzon on Saturday night. Words can not express how sad and shocking it was to read the report of what happened.

I am sincerely sorry for this happening, it must have been terrifying to have witnessed this, I am glad you are safe.

I’ve recently taken a position with the group and joined with the knowledge that a Curzon cinema was a cut above the normal multiplex experience, and on investigating can confirm this is the first time this has ever happened in our cinemas and I sincerely hope will be the last ever time this happens.

That said, we can only learn from this and I can assure you a thorough investigation has taken place and staff will be aware even more of potential trouble makers in the future.

It goes without saying we will refund your tickets – has this been done yet? and of course I would like for your next visit to be on us too, so if you wish to revisit any of our cinemas please contact me personally and I will organise for you. I’ve cc’d in Amica who is the General Manager of Wimbledon who will be more than obliging should you need further help.

Once again Ann I am sincerely sorry you had to witness this.

With best wishes

Nigel

Here are seven reasons why Nigel’s apology rocks

1. The swift response, which nips any bad feeling Ann may have had in the bud.

2. It’s really personal. Not only is the email from a named source, but you can tell Nigel’s written it himself. He sounds genuinely shocked and concerned.

3. He actually uses the word “sorry” (and twice at that), not colder prevarications like “I wish to apologise” or “I regret that”.

4. He provides a remedy – the ticket refund Ann was after. More than that, he’s taken steps to make sure the problem was a one-off and offers Ann a second free ticket at any Curzon cinema.

5. He invites further dialogue. His words: “It goes without saying we will refund your tickets – has this been done yet?” and “please contact me personally and I will organise for you” send the message Ann’s not an annoyance he’d rather be rid of. On the contrary, he wants to hear from her again.

6. He uses Ann’s name twice – she definitely isn’t some faceless customer.

7. Cc’ing Amica is an inspired move that adds to our confidence in Curzon. It sends the message: “I want you to know that my staff are as accountable as I am”.

Nigel, you’re an asset to Curzon Cinemas. We salute you!

For an example of how not to apologise, see our previous post, We’re sorry we’re sorry.

4 Responses to “Now here’s how you write an apology…”

  1. Elaine Swift says:

    Wow. What a great response. How nice to see a bit of honesty without pointless defensiveness.

    I read your previous post about the Apple ‘apology’ and actually couldn’t be bothered to read their response in full.

    It can be hard to sound sincere – I often joke about sales assistants or people on the end of the phone who manage to say ‘Sorry about that’ in such a way that you know they’re anything but.

    Nigel Stowe’s apology sounds sincere, human and very much from the heart.

  2. Liat says:

    Fantastic! I’m forwarding this to my customer service gal right now.

  3. Paul Eveleigh says:

    Good example of a personal, empathetic letter. A no-nonsense, plain English apology.

    But your example, Clare, is the exception that proves the rule. Most apologies are like the Apple letter you cited in an earlier post. Cold and impersonal boilerplate copy. Nigel’s letter, however, tells the reader how he’ll make amends for what happened.

  4. Sorry is the most powerful word in the English language, or at least that version of it used by customer service departments. The trick is not to run such a reply past the legal department – they hate ‘sorry’!

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