Corporate Image Repair: Communicating Apologies After Customer Service Meltdowns


Sophie is a new senior customer communication specialist at Lincoln Gas, a regulated natural gas utility company with more than 1.5 million customers in three U.S. states. For almost six months, Lincoln Gas has faced continuous ridicule on social media and in the press for being unavailable to customers online or via phone for basic requests like starting and stopping service, as well as more urgent matters like reporting billing errors and gas leaks. Lincoln Gas has been working to fix its website and call center woes, but progress is slow, and the social media firestorm rages on. This case encourages students to appraise the communication-related aspects of Lincoln Gas’s customer service meltdown. It then asks students to take on Sophie’s role in first empathizing with customers and then drafting an apology letter on behalf of the company’s CEO that will eventually be sent to all 1.5 million Lincoln Gas customers.

This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes.

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