When things go wrong, are you nimble enough to:
1. Spring into action
2. Identify the issue
3. Plan a recovery
4. Implement the plan within a day? (How about within hours?)
That’s what your customers expect and deserve.
It has been proven that a genuine apology strengthens the emotional connection that a customer has with a company. Being human and prone to making mistakes, we’re in luck. We have the opportunity regularly to make amends.
There was an infamous human dispute that occurred between not a company and a customer, but between two sports legends. George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, unceremoniously dumped beloved Yogi Berra as manager of the team in the middle of the 1985 season. Steinbrenner didn’t deliver the news personally. He jobbed out the task to a member of his organization. Steinbrenner never apologized to Yogi Berra for his action or the manner in which he carried it out. Berra vowed never to set foot in Yankee Stadium again. Many secondhand invitations to return to Yankee Stadium were delivered to Berra over the years, but he didn’t budge until Steinbrenner got personally involved. Fourteen years later, Steinbrenner finally apologized to Yogi Berra. This belated apology violated the first principle of a good apology: swift delivery. But it was sincere and humane, and he took the blame for the action. After 14 years, they made amends.
Apologies to customers are being tossed about very freely these days. But they often are missing the components which give an apology meaning. Yogi Berra knew when Steinbrenner was finally genuine about making amends. And only then did he agree to accept his apology. He could tell that Steinbrenner had had a change of heart.
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Repairing the emotional connection with your customers and reaping good results has conditions. Your apology must:
- Be genuine.
- Restore confidence in being associated with you.
- Honor those harmed.
- Explain and work to resolve the problem.
- Be delivered swiftly and with humility.
Remember when you were a kid and your brother or sister punched you or pinched you? Sure, he or she apologized. But it didn’t mean much because:
(a) Your parent was usually prompting the words.
(b) You received an apology too many times before, just to be punched again another day.
This is what we put our customers through when we deliver a hollow apology and then don’t fix the problem causing the issue. You’ll likely get credit when you apologize once for a problem. But when it repeats, another letter for the same problem won’t cut it. Your currency with customers and their trust in you will dwindle.
Beloved companies turn “recovery” into an opportunity that says to customers, “Who else would respond this way?” They are zealots about recovering customer goodwill. The measure of the company is determined in these moments. And beloved companies obsess over every moment of these situations because they know that customers are keeping score.