Execs take note: Here’s how to write an apology

After an unfortunate incident at one of its cinemas, a Curzon executive pens a heartfelt (if technically flawed) apology to a customer. Lots of lessons here.


On a recent trip to her local cinema, a good friend of mine had to abandon the film halfway 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 afterward, 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 transform a disaster into customer loyalty.

Some of Nigel’s punctuation and phrasing might cause Lynne Truss to huff and puff, though I think it rather adds to the charm and natural feel 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 cannot 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 organize 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 his apology rocks:

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

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), rather than colder prevarications like “I wish to apologize” or “I regret that”.

4. He provides a remedy—the ticket refund Ann was seeking. 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. With his words, “It goes without saying we will refund your tickets—has this been done yet?” and “please contact me personally and I will organize for you,” he makes clear that Ann is 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 is as accountable as I am.”

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

Clare Lynch is chief business writer and trainer at Doris and Bertie, a U.K. communications agency that helps businesspeople ditch corporate-speak and talk like human beings. Follow her on Twitter @goodcopybadcopy.

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