American journalist Katie Couric is known as “America’s Sweetheart,” thanks to the co-anchor role she served for 15 years on The Today Show. Yet even Ms. Couric, a woman known for her warm, affable personality admits that “you can’t please everyone, and you can’t make everyone like you.”
We are the first to recognize that even the best organizations in the world have the occasional flop. Fortunately, when it comes to a poor customer experience, there is room to mend by offering a sincere apology. However, apologizing is more art than science. While a sincere apology has the chance to actually strengthen the customer relationship, an apology that comes across fake or superficial has the potential to inflame an already sore relationship and destroy customer loyalty. So what’s the fine art of a meaningful apology?
Psychologist Dr. Guy Winch outlines three steps. To be effective, an apology needs three basic ingredients: (1) a statement of regret for what happened; (2) a clear “I’m sorry” statement; and (3) a request for forgiveness. Additionally, personal characteristics of the offended party are of paramount importance. Dr. Winch observes that depending on the person, one of the following three components needs heightened focus: (A) expressions of empathy; (B) offers of compensation; and (C) acknowledgments that certain rules or social norms were violated. The nature of your business, employee and customer personality traits shape which of these components will be most effective.
It’s guaranteed that you’ll need to issue an apology at some point. Following these steps can help to ensure that you maintain a solid relationship with your customers in a way that drives customer satisfaction and loyalty.