“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect.  They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter, V.P., British Airways


We’ve spoken frequently on the importance of taking ownership of missteps and apologizing properly to repair (and even strengthen) the relationships with customers; and it just so happens that a situation has arisen in the news which drives these points home.

The healthcare giant, Anthem, announced this past week that they have been the victim of a security breach wherein hackers potentially accessed the sensitive, private information of up to 80 million of its members.  To its credit, Anthem responded to this crisis for its customers with a textbook apology.

First, in a letter signed by Anthem’s CEO, Joseph R. Swedish, he acknowledges the security breach despite their previous security efforts and explains the ways in which Anthem’s members may be vulnerable so that those affected may fully understand the ways they might be vulnerable.

Second, he clearly states what Anthem’s initial response was to the breach and what they are doing moving forward to ensure it does not happen again.  Their response also conveys the intensity of their commitment to resolving the vulnerability that was exploited.

Third, Mr. Swedish shows empathy for the members affected by the breach (using the opportunity to confide that his own information was also stolen) and reiterates Anthem’s commitment to preventing another breach in the future.

Fourth, he sets the members’ expectations for how the company will handle their specific needs and concerns and provides easy ways for the members to communicate directly with Anthem.

Lastly, Mr. Swedish clearly and unequivocally apologizes and commits to earning back the trust of Anthem’s customers without shifting blame to the perpetrators of the hack.

While most customer service cases are not as serious or complicated as Anthem’s, we can all learn something of value by reading through Anthem’s response to its crisis and noticing how each part of it is crafted to make the customer feel heard, supported, cared for, and valued.  We should endeavor to provide the same attention to detail and sincerity that Mr. Swedish’s letter to his customers conveys in our own service cases when our customers reach out to us with real or perceived crises.  Responses like this set the bar for providing service in the face of difficult situations.