Can You Suspend the Fear and Say “Sorry”?


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It’s a given, at some point your business will suffer a failure that disappoints customers. How your company reacts, explains, removes the pain, and takes accountability for actions signals how you think about customers, and the collective heart of your organization. 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.

Beloved companies make decisions on how to earn back customers’ good graces when a misstep occurred. An apology bolsters your faith that business can connect commerce with humanity.

The University of Michigan Health System decided to enable doctors, nurses and all hospital staff to exercise their natural instinct and to say “sorry” when something went wrong. An early adopter of a process that encourages transparency with healthcare providers and patients and their families, the University of Michigan encourages (without fear) a swift and caring explanation, and when appropriate, a heartfelt apology. Doctors and lawyers worried that this level of transparency and just uttering the words “sorry” would drive an increase in claims and malpractice suits. But when put into practice, the complete opposite occurred.

  • Are you able to table the corporate response and deliver one that connects on a personal level?
  • Can you suspend the fear and talk openly and honestly with your customers?

Suspend the Fear and Say Sorry

Take Action:
1. Every day (or at the end of each week) bring your folks together to discuss what experiences disappointed customers. Reach out personally to those customers, acknowledge what went wrong and extend an “olive branch” to right the wrong.

2. Inventory all the common glitches that sometime get in the way of a great customer experience.
Proactively create a “hero kit” of actions that will earn back customer trust and have it available so your folks can deliver the best response. Let them decide which is best for each situation.

3. Follow up with your customers who have experienced your gesture of apology.
The follow up will seal in their memory that you were genuine and that you are a “company to keep.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Thank you for sharing this wisdom Jeanne! I’m totally doing this with our team starting tomorrow.


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