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Virgin Trains recently made a pretty big mistake, and I want to hear your opinions, DMers.

The company sent out an e-mail offering a "Five star evening at The Grove" (a golf resort in Hertfordshire), worth about $780. Sounds nice, right?

The mistake: they sent it to their entire customer database. The message, it seems, was actually just a test run, intended for three staff members. Eventually, it was supposed to go out to a small group of top-tier customers as a loyalty bonus.

The solution: Virgin Trains sent out a follow-up e-mail retracting the offer. It was polite: “So sorry, we’ve sent you an email by mistake. The email you have just received about a Virgin Trains event at The Grove was a test email and was not supposed to be sent to any of our customers.
“We realise that we might have got you all excited about the prospect of a day at The Grove, and would like to offer you the chance to win one of three places at this event.”

Is this good enough?

I don't know that there was any clean way for Virgin Trains to get out of this one; it's one of those mistakes that should just never happen in the first place. The good: The apologetic tone was nice, and the fact that they turned the gaff into something "fun" (a contest! wheee!) was a creative touch. The bad: I feel like an e-mail can come off as too breezy, an after-thought, but where do you get the funds and man-power to contact everyone in a more "personal" way? The ugly: I imagine that, whatever anyone does in this situation, they're still going to have to deal with a number of irate, disappointed and possibly litigious customers.

So here's where you, readers, come in:
How would you/ do you prevent something like this from happening in the first place?

And, once the cat's out of the bag, how do you deal with it? Is the contest a good idea? The retraction e-mail?

Send us your wisdom, please, along with a ticket for a free day at the Grove, if you have one.
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Founded in September 2009, Stirista is an integrated marketing agency that specializes in micro-targeting via traditional and digital channels. Our mission is to help companies, non-profits, and universities alike find new prospects and better understand their existing contacts. We are on the preferred vendor list for a handful of Fortune 500 companies with three of the ten largest companies in the world turning to us for marketing insights. To put it simply, we're young (at least at heart), ambitious, and sometimes impulsive-but always hungry for new ideas.

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Founded in September 2009, Stirista is an integrated marketing agency that specializes in ...