2009's Most Memorable IT Apologies

Pepsi iPhone app apology. Rating: 1

Pepsi's apology for its iPhone app, which offered advice for picking up women, received one of the lowest ratings by the PA team. The Twitter apology read -- "Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go2 get women. We apologize if it's in bad taste & appreciate ur feedback." This was an impressive 99 character long apology. Ironically, the problem with this tech apology was the limitations tied to the very technology used to send it. The app obviously offended some people, so it required a decent attempt at an apology, but it deserved much more than a tweet. Judging by this tweetology, the Pepsi PR guy is obviously not a Twitter genius capable of crafting the perfect 140 character mea-culpa. Twitter is probably not the best approach for sending business apologies, for many of the reasons we cover on our website -- if an apology is easy and painless, it's probably not heartfelt or credible. We're not saying it's impossible to use Twitter to say sorry; it's just much harder to do it well. But there was a far more serious problem with this apology, one that probably made things worse -- Pepsi made the common error of including the word 'if' in an apology -- "we apologize if it's in bad taste." In other words, the apology applies only if we were too prudish or pompous to appreciate the humour. Telling those who were offended by the app that they screwed up, because they missed the point, is never recommended. So, for content, style and substance we give this one a 1 rating for at least including the following 11 characters "we apologize".

T-Mobile and Microsoft Sidekick apology. Rating: 8.8

The T-Mobile-Microsoft apology was among the strongest of those reviewed by the team. The strength of the apology was related to the time and effort devoted to carefully explaining how Microsoft was going to fix the problem for Sidekick users, followed by a detailed list of the steps already taken to avoid the same problem in the future. Data breach apologies are particularly damaging because clients have assigned so much faith, trust and confidence in Microsoft and T-Mobile to save and secure their personal data. Any failure to protect that data inevitably damages the trust required to retain customers for their product. The rapid restoration of personal data certainly helped, as did the measures taken to enhance future security measures and backup plans, but a few more words conveying at least some appreciation for the effects of lost access to personal data would have gone a long way towards personalizing the apology.

Belkin apology for commissioned reviews. Rating: 8.5

Belkin's admission that one of its employees actually commissioned positive reviews of one of its network products offers another good illustration of a strong apology. The President (Mark Reynoso) clearly acknowledges the importance of the error, and addresses the potential harm this caused -- "We know that people look to online user reviews for unbiased opinions from fellow users and instances like this challenge the implicit trust that is placed in this interaction. We regard our responsibility to our user community as sacred, and we are extremely sorry that this happened." This was followed by a description of the solutions -- "We've acted swiftly to remove all associated postings from the Mechanical Turk system. We're working closely with our online channel partners to ensure that any reviews that may have been placed due to these postings have been removed." Reynoso's apology was noteworthy not only for acknowledging the damage to the company's reputation, but for appreciating the implications for the larger online community and the credibility of web-based reviews of tech products. Accepting this additional measure of responsibility was impressive.

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