“Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” – How To Apologize


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Of course, we all make mistakes. Some of us make mistakes multiple times a day. Businesses need to be mindful of mistakes they make that impact their employees and customers.

Company Apology Guidelines

A Company needs to have clear guidelines for handling a mishap and how to deliver an apology message. Also, someone in a Senior role needs to sound remorseful and express truthfulness when something wrong has occurred.

Although corporations may have written policies, particularly in relation to customers, it is important to consider the emotional and psychological impact of your mistake. A quick look at customer complaints will easily demonstrate just how emotional they can be, yet most organizations ignore this fact and concentrate their experience on the “what” rather than the “how”. The emotional state of a customer or colleague, then, is significant and needs to be considered when making an apology. Furthermore, it can be emotionally draining on those who are having to apologize continually for mistakes that are being made within an organization.

Customer Apologies

Seeing that Wells Fargo violated the trust of their customers by their employees opening and moving customers money into their account, they had to accept responsibility. By accepting responsibility, the CEO had to show remorse for the way it didn’t handle their customer accounts responsibly.

Not only was Wells Fargo criticized, but they had to pay fines. In their apology to their customers, they expressed deep regret to the Senate Banking Committee.

When apologizing to a Customer, you should do more than mend fences. By owning up to a mistake, not only are you correcting the problem, but you’re also turning a negative experience into a positive one. These are issues we help discover and resolve in our Behavior Journey Mapping services. We examine what the customer is feeling coming into and during their experience. We do this to better understand how we can help manage those emotions to create a better experience for them. This ultimately includes phone calls and visits to discuss an issue or when something may be wrong.

Additionally, a company should communicate with the customer in writing. Furthermore, a company needs to address what went wrong and how they corrected the situation.

Business Apologies

Since communication is important, I think apologies are often not used enough in a professional situation. Often, the lack of accountability is bothersome in getting individuals to admit a mistake particularly in corporate life. When matters aren’t handled properly, they fester and can create an unhealthy work climate. No matter what the situation is, the following are tips for a professional apology.

·     Apologize quickly so a situation doesn’t blow up.

·     When you apologize, explain what happened and why.

·     Try to avoid conflict.

·     Take accountability for your actions.

·     Be sincere

·     Be honest

Make sure the apology suffices. It is important to let your co-worker or superior know why something happened. Also, make sure your apology has been accepted. If there have been issues with a co-worker or customer, try to schedule a time for a meeting. By offering to resolve any issues, you’re putting the ball in the other person’s court. In a business environment it is clearly preferable to meet in person.

In addition, make sure the person you’re apologizing to understands what went wrong. By trying to come up with a resolution, you’re trying to move on. Once an apology is accepted, both people can move on in which provides a healthier work climate.

Best Way to Apologize to a Colleague or Co-Worker

When someone gets emotional at work or has an outburst, they need to remedy the situation. If you want to give an apology, communicate the hurt and damage it caused. At the same time, take responsibility for the conflict. By expressing remorse, you’re trying to correct the issue. Apologies require the following:

·     Let someone know how badly you feel for what you did.

·     Let someone know why something happened.

·     Take responsibility for your actions.

·     Let someone know what you did was wrong and assure them it won’t happen again.

·     Importantly, offer to make it up to the person you wronged.

Of course, the most important part of a business apology is to acknowledge your wrong doing and how you will fix the issue.

A professional apology should be able to clear up any miscommunication and move forward on a positive note. As you move forward, you will hopefully be able to have a civil and professional relationship.

Sorry is Hard to Communicate

“Sorry seems to be the Hardest Word” is a song recorded by Elton John mourning a relationship that fell apart. Whether in a personal or professional relationship, it is important to be proactive and have your apology resonate with the person you’re saying “I’m sorry” to.

It is important to remember that righting a wrong takes courage. However, a sincere apology can heal, and mend mistakes with your customers and clients.

Have you overcome a difficult situation when apologizing? Let us know any suggestions you have in the comments below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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