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What happened when we accidentally sent an empty template email to our entire audience.

We’ve all been there…

You’re excited to get a new campaign ready, you sit down at your desk, coffee in hand, head into your email marketing tool of choice, create a new campaign, click click click, and… SH****

You sent out too soon. You sent out, in fact, without even realising you had the unchanged default draft template as your email content.

And it’s just gone to your whole list. Hundreds of thousands of people…

OK, so maybe we haven’t all done this. But chances are, we’ve all done something similar — whether it’s sending an email to a colleague without checking before hitting send, or accidentally texting a vague acquaintance instead of your partner with an embarrassing message.

We all make mistakes.

It’s not the mistake that matters, it’s how you respond.

So what did we do when we made our biggest email mistake yet?

It was a tense moment, and we learnt a lot, so we thought the best thing we could do would be to share with you, our dear readers.

What happened?

It was about 14:53 on a Thursday afternoon. Most of the team were happily heads-down tinkering away at our Halloween Hack Day.

Maybe it was a ghost in the machine, maybe it was user-error, but at approximately 14:55 we noticed a large Broadcast had just been sent out from our platform.

A VERY large Broadcast.

We jumped to action-stations and realised one of the team had accidentally sent an email while doing some hack day tinkering.

But not just any email. An empty email template.

And not just to an audience. But to our entire audience.

That’s a lot of people.

To our credit, at least we got the ‘First Name’ variable spot-on. 😅

Panic! Action stations!

What did our audience have to say about it?

Perhaps it’s a sign of a wonderful audience and a customer base of wonderful people, but we were blown away by the number of responses that were supportive and understanding. Here are just a few, with names obscured.

What did we do about it?

We’re a British company, so what is the first thing Brits do during a moment of crisis?

Make a cup of tea, of course.

With mugs (and biscuits) in hand we jumped on a call together to run an in-depth retro of the situation.

We also sent out an initial communication to the client-base via Twitter, to inform them of the situation and reassure it was being investigated.

On the call we dissected the steps leading up to the error and mapped out platform improvements to safeguard against this situation repeating in the future.

Having understood the root-cause of the error, and with a plan in place to prevent this happening again, we decided on our strategy for communicating to the users affected by the Broadcast.

At GoSquared, we pride ourselves on the Support we offer our clients. So it felt only right that we message each client who’d responded to the Broadcast to handle each response personally.

The team jumped on our Live Chat to reply to all client responses (there were quite a few!), but this just felt like the right thing to do.

With the situation increasingly under control, and the cortisol slowing dying down, we followed up on Twitter with a couple of more light-hearted posts. After all, we’re all humans, and no one like having to ‘speak Corporate’ anymore than necessary.

What didn’t we do?

In the first moments of a mini-crisis like this, it’s always easy to default to knee-jerk reactions.

  • Hide our heads in the sand and pretend like nothing happened.
  • Turn up the dial on Corporate spiel with a PR-heavy public announcement full of empty buzzwords.
  • Put the perpetrators into stocks and throw tomatoes at them…

Thankfully, cool heads prevailed (maybe thanks to the tea-break 😊).

We did NOT send another email — to apologise. We felt the best apology would be no more emails today.

We used our other channels to apologise instead: Twitter, Linked, Instagram, and our own announcements system in the platform. We did our best to keep things as personal and human as possible.

We didn’t punish (or fire!) the member of the team who caused the email to send out. We all make mistakes. It’s our job as a team, and our job as makers of an email marketing platform, to ensure mistakes like this are hard to make.

A blameless culture is critical when you want to take risks and achieve great things.

Initial replies

Second replies

In conclusion

Quite a ride eh! 😅

We’d never wish for a scenario like this to happen, and it’s important we’ve now placed additional guard-rails to prevent this occurring in the future, but this episode did remind us of a few things we are grateful for.

  1. Our customers. The humour and empathy demonstrated by the majority of the email’s recipients reiterated to us how lucky we are to be working with some great businesses. And great humans.
  2. Our team. Crisis periods can often bring out the worst in teams. Finger-pointing, responsibility-ducking… all these nasty habits can rear their ugly heads. But none of that was the case with the GoSquared team. We drank our tea, we kept cool-heads, we shouldered collective responsibility, we engaged with our customers, we got it sorted.
  3. Memes. Nothing helps bring a bit of levity than a good ol’ meme 😂

And so we’ll wrap up this article with a big thank you you to all our customers for continuing to be part of our journey.

And do keep your eyes out for our next blog-post, in which we’ll be discussing [INSERT STORY 3 HEADLINE, STORY 3 DESCRIPTION].

Just kidding 😉

Written by
James is CEO and one of the co-founders of GoSquared. He also likes to talk about design.

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