Customer Experience News & Trends

The art of apologizing to angry customers

Let’s face it, bad stuff happens to good companies. Online and off. Stuff that makes your best customers think twice about buying from your company. Stuff that makes you groan with embarrassment, squirm with discomfort and rue the day … But how you recover can do more for your reputation than all the ads in the world.

Repairing the emotional connection is a hallmark of companies that we love, says a new book, I Love You More than My Dog, by Jeanne Bliss.

“It makes us love them even more,” says  Bliss.

Companies that don’t apologize well, or avoid taking the blame, get killed on social networks.

Take United Airlines’ passenger Dave Carroll, whose song about how United broke his guitar has been viewed 5.6 million times on YouTube since it was posted three months ago.

Carroll didn’t want money. He wanted an apology. Here’s how to recover when the inevitable happens:

  • Grovel. When Amazon messed up, CEO Jeff Bezos posted a humble apology online: “Our ‘solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.” More than 700 customers replied. “My loyalty keeps growing stronger,” said one customer.
  • Fess up., one of the most successful online companies, turns its customers into fans by giving unprompted and unrequested refunds. When its service didn’t match promises recently, it sent refunds to everyone with that service, even those who hadn’t noticed.
  • Anticipate complaints. Every morning Southwest Airlines has a MOM meeting (Morning Overview Meeting). It examines everything that went wrong the day before from the passengers point of view, including delayed flights, bad weather, bad engines and bad jokes by attendants. It sends humble letters of contrition to customers, which most often arrive before they’ve even got around to sending their letter of complaint, reported Bliss in her new book.
  • Explain. The best apologies explain what went wrong and what the company has done to prevent the mistake from recurring.

Julie Power is editor in chief of The Internet & Marketing Report and writes the blog Internet Marketing Report Online. Follow her on Twitter.

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