Case Study: A Tale of Three Apologies

November 8, 2012

By David B. Fogel, Ph.D.

In September of 2012, three public apologies were issued that caught the attention of the EffectCheck® team. One was from GoDaddy.com, while the others were from Apple, Inc. and the National Football League. Here’s how each one scored with EffectCheck.

GoDaddy.com

On September 10, 2012, I received the following apology letter from Scott Wagner, CEO of GoDaddy.com, which addressed service outages that its customers had experienced:

Dear David Fogel,
We owe you a big apology for the intermittent service outages we experienced on September 10 that may have impacted your website, your email and other Go Daddy services.
We let you down and we know it. We take our responsibilities — and the trust you place in us — very seriously. I cannot express how sorry I am to those of you who were inconvenienced.
The service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and GoDaddy.com. We have implemented a series of immediate measures to fix the problem.
At no time was any sensitive customer information, including credit card data, passwords or names and addresses, compromised.
Throughout our history, we have provided 99.999% uptime in our DNS infrastructure. This is the level of performance we expect from ourselves. Monday, we fell short of these expectations. We have learned from this event and will use it to drive improvement in our services.
It's an honor to serve you. As always, please call us 24/7 at 480-505-8877 — anytime, for any reason.
Sincerely,
Scott Wagner
CEO
GoDaddy.com

Assessing this letter within the category of apologies, the graph below shows the overall lexical emotional impact:



EffectCheck Score

Figure 1: The overall lexical emotional impact of the
GoDaddy.com apology, scored in the apology letter category.



Thus, the overall impact was mostly typical, although there was nicely a high level of evoked compassion. Using the new moving-window tool (available to professional subscribers of EffectCheck), it’s shown in the figure below that the apology concluded by evoking increased confidence, compassion, and happiness, and decreased anxiety, hostility, and depression.



EffectCheck 30-Word Moving Window

Figure 2: Assessing the lexical emotional impact of the GoDaddy.com apology letter using a 30-word moving window.



Apple, Inc.

On September 28, 2012, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook offered a public apology letter to customers after receiving complaints about the functionality of its new Maps application. The official letter can be found here: http://www.apple.com/letter-from-tim-cook-on-maps/ -- however, as it has been reprinted elsewhere, to make it easier to appreciate the subsequent analysis, the letter is reprinted here:

to our customers,

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook
Apple’s CEO

Using EffectCheck, the overall lexical effect of the letter in the apology category appears in the graph below:



EffectCheck Score

Figure 3: The overall lexical emotional impact of the Apple, Inc.
apology, scored in the apology letter category.



Anxiety, hostility, and depression were kept low (and lower than the GoDaddy letter), while evoked confidence was high to very high. Using a 30-word moving window, the lexical effects were as follows:



EffectCheck 30-Word Moving Window

Figure 4: Assessing the lexical emotional impact of the Apple apology letter using a 30-word moving window.



As with the GoDaddy apology, the letter closed with increasing confidence, compassion, and happiness.

National Football League

Also on September 28, 2012, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell sent an apology to football fans, which read as follows:

To NFL Fans:

The National Football League is at its best when the focus is on the players and the action on the field, not on labor negotiations.

All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do.

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment, but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next.

I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.

As a lifelong fan, this wasn't an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances.

Our new agreement gives long-term stability to an important aspect of our game, officiating. More important, with this agreement, officiating will be better in the long run. While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms. For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games.

We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. It's time to put the focus where it belongs -- on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.

Roger Goodell

Assessing the overall lexical impact, as shown below, Goodell’s letter evoked very high confidence and high happiness. Anxiety, hostility, and depression were only typical for apology letters (again, lower than observed in the GoDaddy.com letter).



EffectCheck Score

Figure 5: The overall lexical emotional impact of Commisioner
Goodell's apology, scored in the apology letter category.



Using a 30-word moving window, the lexical effects unfolded as follows:



EffectCheck 30-Word Moving Window

Figure 6: Assessing the lexical emotional impact of Commissioner Goodell’s apology letter using a 30-word moving window.



The letter concluded by evoking increasing confidence and happiness and decreasing anxiety and depression. Minor adjustments could have been made to better increase compassion at the close.

Summary

Each of these apology letters has been viewed as being generally effective. EffectCheck shows that each letter evoked high levels of confidence and happiness at the close, and generally lower levels of anxiety and depression at the close. In addition, the letter from Apple’s CEO Tim Cook lowered anxiety, hostility, and depression; whereas Commissioner Goodell’s letter emphasized happiness. It’s of interest to contrast this to the apology issued on June 20, 2011, by Dropbox CTO Arash Ferdowski that was analyzed at http://blog.effectcheck.com/2011/06/21/how-not-to-deliver-bad-news-dropbox-cto-arash-ferdowsi/. In that case, Dropbox had a security vulnerability and reaction to their apology letter on HackerNews was quite negative. The graph below shows the profile of that apology letter, which did not evoke high levels of confidence, compassion, or happiness, and did not reduce levels of anxiety, hostility, and depression as analyzed using EffectCheck.1

EffectCheck Score

Figure 7: The overall lexical emotional impact of the Dropbox apology (see https://blog.dropbox.com/?p=821), scored in the apology letter category.