For many of us, sending an email with a typo is embarrassing enough. And sending a personal or joky email to the entire office instead of a work buddy can be blush-worthy. But emails that are rude about someone and sent to them by accident can, and do, cost jobs. Internally, it’s bad enough but the knock-on effect of sending such an email to a client can really negatively impact on a business.
Take the recent email sent to a bride-to-be in Kent viewing venues for her wedding reception. After a visit to one restaurant that the client felt was rather lacklustre, she left a negative review online. She was then shocked to receive an email from the staff member who gave her the tour, clearly meant for a colleague, in which she was described as ‘a cow’.
Limiting the Damage
So how can employees minimise the fallout in such a scenario – and what should HR do to mitigate potential damage?
The obvious take-away from email gaffs is to read them carefully and check the recipient before hitting send. That’s in an ideal world, but we lead busy lives! HR professionals generally agree that accidentally replying to all, calling someone by the wrong name, or realising too late that autocorrect changed a word to something weird, are best followed up with an apologetic email. Avoiding, when possible, using a smartphone for important emails is also wise. Hitting send too soon and bizarre autocorrections are all too easy when using a small touchscreen, particularly when commuting when the movement of the vehicle can jolt phones and fingers.
Own the Mistake
Errors such as attaching the wrong file should be dealt with depending on the content of the file. Send an incorrect Excel file or link to the wrong Google Document and it can normally be dealt with by apologetic email containing the right file. However, sending something that’s clearly not meant for the recipient – inappropriate content or those kind of photos, and it’s time to bite the bullet, pick up the phone and apologise in person.
As for emails such as those sent by the Kentish restaurant, companies need to take steps to limit the potential damage to their brand and the financial knock-on effect. This means taking ownership of the mistake and apologising. Assuming a defensive position, particularly an aggressive one, will aggravate the problem, not lessen it. Flooding websites with fake positive reviews is also a no-no and should be strongly discouraged by HR – it’s obvious and will show the company in an insincere light. Instead, listen to feedback and use the opportunity to improve.
Online negative reviews caused by a client receiving an offensive email can spread like wildfire and will impact the business. HR departments need to define procedures for dealing with the employee responsible, as well as consider policies such as limiting or banning the sending of personal emails from work accounts.