So you’ve sent an email by mistake – here’s what you need to do.

Ah, hitting that send button a little too soon. It happens to the best of us. Maybe you’re sending out an internal email to company staff or maybe you’re pitching to potential clients. Even if you’re in the zone, it doesn’t take much to accidentally forget to delete a line, add a link, spell check or attach a doc.

Don’t stress! There are always a way to recover from a misstep in email communications, even if the audience on the other end has opened and read what you’ve sent out.

Recalling emails in Outlook and Gmail.

If the email you’ve sent was from your work email address and sent internally or externally to a smaller group of people via Outlook or Gmail, there are steps you can take within a reasonable time frame to recall or ‘unsend’ an email before it is received by your recipient/s. But, once your email leaves your outbox, you have zero control over it. And I mean zero.

Can you recall an email already sent in Gmail?

The short answer is no. But, In Gmail, there is a feature called ‘Undo Send.’ If you ‘Enable Undo Send’ you give yourself a little bit more control. Without getting into a debate over semantics, you’re not actually undoing a send when you enable this feature, you are simply delaying a send by 10, 20 or 30 seconds. During that time period you can ‘cancel’ or ‘undo’ a send that you have essentially scheduled.

If you don’t have this feature enabled and you hit send, then it cannot be unsent. And if you do have this feature enabled and you hit send, once those 10, 20 or 30 seconds have passed, your message will be sent, and you cannot unsend.

Can you unsend an email in Outlook?

If you use Outlook, you may be able to retract an email you’ve sent, but like Gmail, you need to be really fast.

The first thing you need to do is head to your ‘Sent Items’ folder and then open the email you want to recall. Select the ‘Message’ tab, then in the ‘Move’ group click on ‘Actions’ and then select ‘Recall This Message.’

A new window will open with a few options. ‘Delete unread copies of this message’ or ‘Delete unread copies and replace with a new message’.

Outlook can also tell you if a recall succeeds or fails for each recipient. When complete, just click ‘OK’ to recall your email.

So while you can ‘unsend’ an email in theory, if a recipient has already opened your email, it’s too late. The feature will also only work if you’re using a Microsoft Exchange email account and if the recipient is on the same server as you. So if you’ve sent to recipients outside of your office or to recipients using a completely different email client, then you have no control and it might be better to just send a follow-up email apologising or rectifying your mistake.

What if I send out mass marketing emails with errors?

Sorry, but you won’t be able to recall these. Once they’ve been sent, then generally they’re out in the wild and they won’t come back. But it’s okay, these things happen, and the most important factor at this point is how you recover from it.

Accept that you’ve made a mistake.

If you’ve made a mistake, the best thing you can do is own it and start handling it like a pro. If you report into someone, then send an email to your line manager explaining what happened.

Assess the impact.

How many emails went out? Just how big was this mistake? Was it a simple typo or did you accidentally promote a 100% off sale rather than a 10% off sale? The small stuff can probably slide, but if your mistake is likely to cause customer dissatisfaction, you need to act quickly. So now’s the time to start assembling a plan.

Get your plan into motion.

 In the case that it’s a big ‘oops’ moment, then it’s probably best to respond quickly. You might be able to even get your user to read your replacement email first, since it will generally sit higher in their inbox.

Write a clear subject line, like, ‘Sorry about that last email’ or ‘Oops, we made a mistake’ so your user knows why they’re getting another email from you. Apologise upfront and own the mistake. Remember to stay on brand and always include the correct information.

How to avoid making email mistakes in future.

Of course, it’s easier said than done, but there are a few ways to help decrease the chances of making email mistakes in the future.

  1. Never use placeholder text like ‘Lorem Ipsum’ in your emails.
  2. Proofread your email once, twice and even three times. If it helps, read out loud.
  3. Make sure you always use spell check.
  4. Get another person to look over your email to check for errors and to ensure every link or attachment is working.
  5. Turn these steps into a checklist so that everyone who works on email marketing in your business follows these steps before they hit send.
  6. Have a ‘sorry’ or ‘oops’ template ready to go in the event that you do make a mistake. This will mean you can bounce back faster when mistakes do happen.

Want more advice on handling tricky customer comms? Check out our article – Don’t panic – here’s what to do when you receive a negative review. 

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