People want answers – not explanations – after a crisis. When your customers are in pain because of something you did, it’s time to tell them what you’re going to do to fix it before you tell them why or how.

A friend of mine recently sent me an email he received in response to a sever failure by his Internet provider. It began with a 122 word paragraph about what happened and why. “I fell asleep before I got to the end of it. I had no idea what they were going to do to fix it,” he said.

Tech companies, especially, think their initial response to a crisis should be to explain why something happened. And, for some reason, they believe throwing in some technical jargon will make us all feel better about it. For example, the server company’s “apology” (and I’m being generous with that term) included terms like ”critical fault” and “racks in the data center.”

It turns out that if you slogged through all that gobbledygook you found out that they had already fixed the problem. Instead of getting to the point, they, like so many of their technology brethren, thought the rest of us cared about what they did to get to the point. WE DON’T CARE! TELL US IT’S FIXED!

Here’s a formula for a customer-facing communique that we find gives comfort, provides understanding and breeds acceptance without long-term reputation damage after a technology failure:

Sentence #1: “We are pleased to tell you that we have solved the problem with our Kanaflanx Internet Thingy.”

Sentence #2: “We apologize for any interruption in service or loss of data.”

Sentence #3: “We are well aware of how much you depend on our Thingy for the success of your business.”

Sentence #4: “We assure you that we are working with our top level Computer Nerds to repair the cause of this issue and prevent it from impacting your business in the future.”

Sentence #5: “Thank you for your ongoing confidence in our products and our company.”

Sentence #6: “Please contact me personally with any of your concerns. My email is HeadComputerNerd@thingy.com.

There you have it: 90 words that say “It’s fixed. We’re sorry. We’re doing all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We love you. We need you. Talk to me directly ‘cause I care.”

And if you can’t say that to your customers – in or out of crisis – why the heck are you even in business?

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