Any apology is nothing short of an actual one that has taken place since the age of three: eyes down, bodies turned away, fists bent, and feet are a threat to the stump.
Eventually, they manage to make out a sound that can be interpreted as “sorry”, but there is almost certainly no regret behind it.
As adults, we learn how to offer a more mature apology that involves less leg-petting. But giving a genuine, effective apology is still hard work! This is particularly difficult in customer service, where it is often required to be firm to your decision or to apologize while you are meeting requests.
If you can effectively apologize to customers, you can turn into a bad situation. However, if you really can’t apologize, your customers will be left to assume that you just don’t care.
Why should you apologize to customers?
Some companies do not allow their team members to say “I’m sorry” because they fear the legal consequences of admitting a mistake. That kind of attitude is distasteful to a customer who wants to hear that someone takes ownership of the issue.
In a New York Times article that looked at the rates of legal action taken against medical doctors by harassing patients and relatives, the study found that the biggest factor in reducing legal action was for doctors to explicitly accept their patients To encourage when he made a mistake.
A separate study has found that “people are more than twice as likely to forgive a company that is sorry for more than one that offers them cash instead.
Accepting a mistake is a powerful act; It tells the customer “You’re right, I see your point of view, and I understand it.” It recognizes a shared reality with the customer. This is in contrast to the “avoidance and denial” that it craves to fall into.
It also helps that an effective apology costs much less than a court case or even a withdrawal or waiver. (“Effective” is the key word, because not every apology hits the mark. “Sorry for any inconvenience” is a phrase that means that the words involved have almost opposite meanings.)
How to apologize to a customer
The examples below are of written apologies, which we like because an email or letter gives you more time to consider and revise your response, but the same concepts apply to the phone or person. There are five important aspects of forgiveness for the customer:
1. really sorry
If you don’t really apologize for at least some part of the problem, don’t apologize. Instead, ask questions and listen again to make sure you really understand the situation.
Annoyed customers can be aggressive or extreme, perhaps because they don’t think anyone is really listening, and they can tell why you’re saying sorry without understanding.
Before answering, give yourself time (and perhaps a walk around the block) to understand how you’re feeling, too.
My reaction may be an attempt to defend myself and attack the customer’s views as inaccurate and unfair. It never helps, but letting myself feel that feeling, and sometimes even writing it down (not in email – not in email!), Gives me the mental space to write a much better response.
2. Validate Your Customers’ Feelings
You do not have to agree with everything a customer says, but they need to know that you have heard them and that you accept how you feel. Here are some phrases you can include in your response to validate your customers’ feelings:
“I know it’s really frustrating for you when you just want to get your work done.”
“I understand how it has affected your workflow. I am also upset.
“You are right.” (Yes, just those two words can help aggravate the situation.)
Check for reflective listening; It is a valuable skill at work and home.
3. What happened
Write a complete explanation of the situation as you understand it, making sure to address all points raised by the customer. You can possibly provide information that the customer may not have access to, where things have broken and what has resulted.
Only when you have validated your customers’ feelings and given them a clear explanation of what happened, is your chance to accept your apology genuine.
Note that you are not just making excuses. You are not trying to get the customer to be somewhat lethargic. Instead of being defensive, you are being transparent by stating exactly what has happened.
4. Accept Your Mistakes
Whether it was your personal fault or the fault of the company, service, or product, accept it clearly. Be specific about what you apologize for and use the same phrases and words that your customer used. This should be a real and specific entry.