Customer Excellence by Using a Sincere Apology


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There is tremendous power in delivering a sincere apology, especially when dealing with an unhappy or dissatisfied customer.

Whenever you’re working with an unhappy client, your first step should always be to listen with empathy. However, immediately afterward, it is tremendously important to deliver a sincere apology.

There have been numerous blog posts on this subject. Here are a few along with some of my comments:

Transforming the Conversation

An apology in a customer service context should be used to transform the conversation. You’re trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive experience. If not, why bother?

You’re a business, you want that complaining customer to turn into a fan who will come back and spend more money in your business, not with your competitors. This, in and of itself, should make you sincere in delivering the apology.

People can tell when you’re sincere, it shows up in your body language, your tone of voice and in the words that you use. Remember, people buy from people, not from companies. They’re looking to you, as a person, for validation and redress; companies are cold, contrived concepts.

When the apology is sincerely delivered by a human being, you’re taking the first step in transforming the conversation.

The second part of transforming the complaint into a positive experience is ensuring that your apology is complete. At a minimum, it needs to include:

  • What happened
  • The cause (no blame here just what caused it)
  • How you’re fixing it
  • When will the issue be corrected
  • What you’re doing to keep it from happening again (to this customer or any other)
  • Compensation?
  • Where to go for follow up and how and when you will follow up.

I won’t go into further detail, on these. If you want more I suggest you click on that link up there titled Apologies Expanded.

Why Take the Blame if It isn’t My Fault?

Sometimes, the issue really isn’t your company’s fault. It may be due to a supplier or something completely outside of what you do. You may not feel like you should be blamed for it and don’t want to apologize…

First off, stop taking it personally. The customer is coming to you for validation; their words may be “blaming” you but they don’t really care who’s fault it is. He or she simply wants to know that you understand how the issue impacted them (empathy) and get it corrected.

So, put yourself in their shoes and look at the issue from their perspective. Once you do this, you’ll be able to help them.

You need to take ownership of the problem and get it fixed; no matter who’s “fault” it is. This isn’t accepting blame but it is taking responsibility for the solution. You absolutely want your customer to associate you with solutions, not problems.

So work on the solution and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. Your customers will love you for it.

When an Apology Doesn’t Seem to Work

Sometimes, an apology doesn’t seem to work… Chances are, you’re doing it wrong. (You didn’t want to hear that, did you?) It’s true; if your customer is still raging, you missed something somewhere.

In decades of customer service (I started in restaurants when I was young), I have never seen a customer stay mad or escalate a complaint when the apology was done right.

So start over. Look at the issue from their point of view, be empathetic and deliver a complete apology again.

When it’s real, it works every time.

Working Together Towards a Solution

Once you’re passed the apology, it isn’t over, work with your customer on the solution. Partner with them, get their input; they may have novel ideas on resolving the issue. You can even ask them if they’ve encountered similar issues elsewhere and how it was (or wasn’t) resolved.

This can help you find a better solution than what you offered and may even give you important information about competitors practices. It also makes the customer feel valued; so, go ahead, ask the customer how they think you should fix it.

Follow Up!

Last, but certainly not least, follow up. Do it with the complaining customer and any others you can identify who may have had the issue. Remember, if one complained, there’s likely nine others who had the issue and said nothing. There’s no reason to lose those nine others.

Following up demonstrates that you’re trustworthy and that your customers can count on you.



Republished with author's permission from original post.

Eric Jacques
Customer Excellence Blog
Customer Service Excellence Advocate -- working as a Client Satisfaction Manager


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