How NOT to apologize…

We all make mistakes in our work. As the old saying goes, it’s not the mistakes you make, it’s how you deal with them after the fact that matters.

Last week, I received an email from Carefirst BlueCross BlueShield (my health insurance provider) telling me that my insurance policy had been canceled. There was no reason given for the cancelation. (I quickly checked my bank account and learned that my checks had been cashed, so at least I knew it wasn’t for lack of payments!)

Five minutes later, I received an identical email.

Six minutes later, I received a third email, identical to the first two. Using my unique powers of intuition, I guessed that this was probably some kind of computer error. But not wanting to mess with my health insurance, I asked my wife to call Carefirst. After being on hold for 27 minutes (another clue that there was something wrong), she reached a customer service representative, who assured my wife that this was indeed an error. The CSR said they were receiving MANY irate calls (understandably).

About 12 hours later, I received the following email, reproduced below verbatim:

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has determined that emails may have been sent out inadvertently stating that you have either been terminated or that your account is past due. These emails were sent out in error and we regret any inconvenience this may have caused you.

No signature. No explanation as to what may have happened. And 12 hours(!) after the original emails were sent in error.

And is “we regret any inconvenience” the same as saying “We’re sorry.”? I’m not certain.

Look, I’m not expecting the CEO of Carefirst to call me personally to apologize. But how about a message from an actual PERSON (say the director of customer service)? How about some EXPLANATION as to why this happened? How about “We know that your health insurance is important to you and we’ll do our best to avoid this kind of error in the future”? Let’s face it, this isn’t like receiving a cancellation to a magazine subscription!

The failure wasn’t in the message being sent in error. Mistakes happen. The failure was not addressing the mistake quickly, and not apologizing for the mistake appropriately.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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