When ‘Email marketing’ goes horribly wrong
It all started one quiet Friday morning when I received what was supposed to be a promotional email from a hotel in Chirimba. The sender, who never signed off, sent an email titled “Dorvic Hotel (Blantyre – Malawi)” and the body was simply written “PLEASE FIND THE ATTACHED DOCUMENTS. Regards”. Attached were three power point files and a word document. I found this approach rather amateurish. But what I saw next sent alarm bells ringing. The sender had sent this email to some 500 people or so and placed all the addresses in the TO: section for all to see. It was a recipe for disaster!
While I was still thinking why the sender had decided to send off an email in that way an email acknowledging receipt came in. Within a few minutes another acknowledgment came in. Then two other people responded at almost the same time asking people to send their acknowledgments to the sender only and not to everybody on the list. Then all hell broke loose. People started to second the idea that people should not respond to all.
One of the first people to acknowledge receipt then sent out his ‘social message’ to the whole list. Then someone else sent out a party invitation. People shouted demanding to be removed from the list. Others continued to urge people not to respond to all. The emails went on and on and on. They came from far and wide. A gentleman south of the Limpopo wondered why he had to be abused for simply providing his email address when he patronized the hotel some time back.
Some semblance of normality seems to have set in hours later but not without our hotel getting a bloody noise. An official apology from the hotel was sent out days later assuring email recipients that the whole episode was an error that had now been fixed and would never happen again. They then went on to extend a 10% discount to all email recipients for services at the hotel till 31st December 2009.
This apology no doubt was an attempt at crisis management but the damage had already been done and it was third parties that did the brand the most damage. The hotel provided the fuel for the flame that two people lit and burnt a pretty young and potential brand. The confidence that so many people had put in this institution by providing their email addresses on the assurance that their privacy would be guaranteed was lost at the press of the send button.
This is one of many bitter lessons that organisations that choose cheap over professional, shortcut over doing it the right way have to deal with time and again. We can only hope that they will lead to better practices in the future!