If you haven’t been in business long, you might be wondering about apologizing to customers. What’s the best way to offer a sincere, genuine apology when you’ve made a mistake?
Every business will eventually mess up and need to offer an apology to a customer (or customers) – the question is whether or not your business will be prepared when that time comes.
It’s helpful to know in advance what the best practices are for apologizing to customers. Take it from us, the small business customer service experts – offering a sincere apology can turn the most disastrous customer service scenarios into something positive.
The Art of Apologizing to Customers
Apologies may not be considered an art form in personal relationships, but in customer service, there is certainly a right way and a wrong way to do it. Offering an apology to a customer when it’s warranted is an important part of delivering a great customer experience, no matter what industry you’re in.
Have you ever had a friend, partner, or family member who made it known that they didn’t like to apologize? You’ve almost certainly interacted with someone like this in your lifetime, and if you have, you know firsthand how frustrating that lack of apologetic, remorseful behavior can be. It’s hard to develop a strong connection to someone who refuses to see their own wrongs and apologize for them.
Customer service is no different. Customers don’t want to do business with narcissistic companies that can do no wrong in their own eyes. Those businesses that don’t often offer apologies to customers will eventually fall to the wayside as dissatisfied customers leave.
You can retain your customers and build up good will by offering a sincere apology when it’s warranted. Following are the elements of a sincere apology.
The elements of a sincere apology
A sincere apology comes quickly
When something goes wrong, apologizing to customers right away will help you earn back customer trust and good will. Sincere apologies come quickly after an incident to show those affected that you’re not hiding from the problem, denying it, or abiding by some red-tape process. You’re being genuine and offering an apology right away. Apologize to customers as soon after the incident occurs as possible.
A sincere apology covers what went wrong
How can you truly be sorry if you don’t know what went wrong? Listening to the customer carefully will help you determine exactly what went wrong, why they’re disappointed, and what type of apology they’re looking for. If the problem lies with your product or company policies, be willing to talk about what went wrong to show you have a clear understanding of the issue.
A sincere apology admits wrongdoing
Growing up, my mother referred to some apologies as “loophole apologies.” These were pseudo-apologies that sound like “I’m sorry,” but don’t actually admit to any wrongdoing, thereby absolving the person of their guilt without solving the core problem.
Loophole apologies sound like this:
- I’m sorry that you feel that way.
- I’m sorry you didn’t like [product], but all the product information was available to you at checkout.
Sincere apologies sound like this:
- I’m sorry that our product disappointed you. Let’s talk about some possible solutions for this.
- I’m truly sorry to hear that you’ve had a bad experience. What would your ideal solution look like?
A sincere apology discusses the way the customer was affected
If you can’t understand how an incident affected a customer, you can’t truly be sorry for the effects. Offering a sincere apology might mean discussing the way (or ways) the customer was affected by your actions or mistakes. Here’s an example:
“It was recently brought to our attention that one of our most popular products has been shipping out with a defect that is causing it to work improperly. We realize that many of you purchased this item as a gift and are now struggling to replace this item before the holidays arrive. We are working diligently to have the replacements delivered to you on or before the 23rd of this month.
We want to extend our deepest apologies as well as a $100 Visa gift card for your trouble. You will receive an email with details on your gift card within the next few days. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience caused and wish you all the happiest of holidays!”
The art of apologizing to customers means being genuine, offering the apology in a timely manner, admitting any wrongdoing, and talking about the ways your customers were affected. If you can offer a meaningful apology to your customers when you mess up, you’ll earn loyal customers that are understanding and happy to accept your apologies.