Apologizing to a Customer

Apologizing to a customer can be more difficult than apologizing to friends and family. When it’s a customer that you (or your company) has wronged, there isn’t usually a deep personal connection and a sincere apology can seem forced or just part of standard operating procedure. Customers sense insincerity from a mile away, so apologizing to a customer in a straightforward manner is always the best choice.

Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

Just let those words sink in for a moment. Never ruin an apology with an excuse.

In order to start effectively apologizing to customers, you must show that you understand the issue at hand, that you’re truly sorry, and that you’re not making excuses for what went wrong. You’re taking responsibility for the wrong and taking steps to make things right.

Considering that excuses are not part of the anatomy of an apology, what is?

The anatomy of an apology

A good apology isn’t simply saying, “I’m sorry.” When it comes to customer service, apologizing to a customer must include a few key elements.

First, a good apology is sincere. It’s not given in an annoyed or rushed manner. Sincerity counts and your customers will be able to smell a fake apology from a mile away.

Second, a good apology contains some evidence of your understanding of the issue at hand. This is why saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Paraphrase some of what your customer is complaining about into your apology to show that you understand what is happening on their end.

For example: “I understand that it’s frustrating to be unable to XYZ, and I know you’re very busy. I want to apologize for this problem and assure you that I’m working diligently now to find a solution fast.”

Finally, a good apology offers a possible solution to the problem, not an excuse for why it occurred in the first place. See the example above – “and assure you that I’m working diligently now to find a solution fast.” Imagine how differently that apology would come off if the solution was replaced with an excuse:

“I understand that it’s frustrating to be unable to XYZ, and I know you’re very busy. I want to apologize for this problem, but honestly it isn’t our fault and I’m not sure why it’s happening.”

This holiday season “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” An excuse tells the customer that you’re trying to weasel your way out of taking responsibility for your or your company’s possible wrongs. How do you apologize to your customers?

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