Customer Experience News & Trends

Apologize the right way – and customers will love you

You screwed up, and it’s time to apologize. 

It’s hard to say you’re sorry. But it’s the first step in rebuilding a relationship when customers deserve to be upset.

A simple “we’re sorry” won’t cut it when customer relationships are on the line.

Yet, 85% of companies don’t have a standard or process to rebound from a major mistake. And almost all of them agree that an effective and convincing apology is critical to the customer experience, according to research from Corporate Visions and GainSight.

Good recovery more important than no mistake

It’s even more important than you might think: Researchers have found that companies get higher customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings from customers who received a solid apology and recovery than customers who never experienced a problem!

“If you just have no failure with your customers, there will a nice, slight up in terms of their loyalty and satisfaction,” says Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions. “And what happens when you have a service failure is the immediate reaction is panic … and yes, it is actually not good. But if you recover well from that service problem, you can actually create loyalty and satisfaction levels higher than if you never had a service problem to begin with.”

Make the perfect apology

So, when there’s a problem, and it’s time to apologize, this is how to make the best recovery. These elements don’t have to be in any particular order. But you must:

  • Take responsibility. You want to admit that there’s a problem and it’s your fault, regardless of how it happened.
  • Express regret. Say you’re sorry for the problem.
  • Offer a repair. Describe exactly how you’ll fix the problem.
  • Explain the problem. Don’t point fingers. Briefly explain what happened so customers understand you have a handle on it.
  • Declare repentance. Make it clear that you do not want this problem to repeat.

Here are two examples of what the perfect apology sounds like.

  • Mr. Customer, we’ve had a production delay, and your delivery will be late by one day. Our mainframe was affected by a power outage for five hours, and several orders had to be put on hold during repairs. Our technicians were able to get us back on line. We’re installing generators so it doesn’t happen again. I’m sorry this has affected you, and we have put your order at the front of our shipping priority. We’ll also waive shipping fees on your next order.
  • Mrs. Customer, I’m sorry to report that we can’t customize your item. We thought we had the capability, but it’s not possible with our current machinery. We hope to scale to size in the next six months and make more customizations like you requested. What we can do is change the size you requested at no additional charge and get this out to you on time.

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  • Corporate Visions

    Thanks so much for citing our research in your article!

    You’ve listed all 5 elements of an effective apology, but our research actually showed that the order in which they are delivered matters quite a lot.

    You can find more info, including the specific order of the apology elements here:

    • Michele McGovern

      Thanks @corpv for adding even more value!

  • Me

    I understand maintaining “professionalism” in the work place and taking the high road. But why the HELL should anyone have to apologize if they’ve done nothing wrong? Even Jesus never used that tactic and he was HUMILITY itsellf. Never apologize when you’re not in the wrong. Don’t argue, but don’t say sorry either. To hell with that shit!