Customer Experience News & Trends

You screwed up the customer experience: 6 keys to getting the apology right

If you deal with customers, you’ll screw up. Whether it’s a real or perceived mistake, customers will expect that you make things right — and a proper apology is the first step.

Real apologies should be painless for those who mess up and those who are affected. Your organization and customers should be able to get over it, move forward and maintain a good relationship.

What it takes

It takes an effective apology for that to happen. This is what you need to do, according to workplace trust expert Randy Conley:

  • Pick the right time. When it comes to apologizing, the sooner the better — especially if it involves an error that affects customers’ businesses or lives. It gives them more time to deal with the fallout.
  • Accept responsibility. You will restore trust with customers if you admit a mistake quickly. And if it’s a customer perceived error, take responsibility for the solution. For instance, “I will see that this is resolved right away.”
  • Use the right words. “I’m sorry” expresses remorse for the situation and any hurt feelings it has caused. “I apologize” only expresses regret. Say, “I’m sorry.” And never use conditional language such as, “but …” or “if only …” that negates your apology.
  • Recognize the issue. Follow the apology with an acknowledgement of the mistake — not just their feelings. Wrong: “I’m sorry you feel this way.” Right: “I’m sorry we lost your order. I know you depended on us and we’ve disappointed you and possibly affected your deadline.”
  • Listen. If customers want to vent, allow them to do it.
  • Skip the excuses. You might have a legitimate reason for the apology worthy situation, but customers will only hear it as an excuse. Focus on what was done, how it affected customers and what will be done now to fix it, restore the relationship and ensure it won’t happen again.

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