Now it's Capital One that had a breach affecting 106 million people: 100 million in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada. The company had put its data on Amazon's AWS cloud system and, because of a reported error in the bank's infrastructure, someone broke in.
What do you say after a situation like this?
"While I am grateful that the perpetrator has been caught, I am deeply sorry for what has happened," said Richard D. Fairbank, Chairman and CEO. "I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right."
Or, as Brianna Wu, a game developer, cyber security expert, and candidate for Congress put it:
A CEO saying, "We are sorry for this breach," is the #infosec equivalent of "Thoughts and prayers."-; Brianna Wu (@BriannaWu) July 30, 2019
Infosec, by the way, is short for information security.
Thoughts and prayers seems to have become the standard response, no matter what the context, for organizations that want to convey care but leave many skeptical.
It's not that no one has figured out the right way for an organization to apologize. The steps are clear. You apologize directly to the people affected, admit fault, indicate why whatever happened was wrong because you clearly understand, ask what you can do to make things right, and explain how you'll avoid any similar problem in the future.
Some people break out the steps a little differently, but those are the essential things to cover. It also shows why companies rarely if ever actually apologize. They don't want to admit fault and, potentially, legal liability. Management also will suffer from human frailties and may not want to sacrifice their egos. Instead, you get moments of insanity like Facebook's embarrassing apology tour.
If you're an entrepreneur, or working as a manager at a business, you can't afford to do this. When the company makes a mistake and angers a customer as a result, it's time to address the customers and let them know that you are sorry.
Sometimes you have to pay a price. It may be making good on an inconvenience or something far more substantial. It will also include rightfully dining on crow.
But do you want an ultimately thriving business or not? So much of success in being an entrepreneur comes down to being human. Trying to make people happy. Doing the best you can.
Part of being human is making mistakes and then recovering and learning from them. And apologizing. If that isn't part of work and life, then you spend all your time pretending problems didn't happen, deflecting reality, and bamboozling all around you--an exhausting and depressing prospect. A true apology and work to move forward will be humbling, but also invigorating and regenerating.