Customer disagreements can develop for a number of reasons. Even the best of us are prone to making mistakes. To be successful in any business requires one to allay customer concerns promptly.
So what’s the best way to approach a blunder and apologize for it?
- First remember, your mistake probably feels bigger than it actually is. Any tough conversation comes with a fear of the unknown. Mulling over your mistake has probably magnified its importance. Relax.
- Apologize personally, with humility, respect, and honesty. Speak as a humble person, preferably face-to-face and using personal language. It’s important to actually say the words “sorry” or “apologize” and provide a clear, succinct indication of exactly what you’re apologizing for.
- Word your apology plainly. Here’s an example: “I know I really screwed up here, and I know I made you and your team look bad in the process. I want to apologize personally and figure out a way to turn it around. Are you open to talking about that?”
- Don’t make excuses. There’s probably an excellent and valid reason for your mistake. Now’s not the time to explain it. Take full responsibility without caveats. It’s the only way to begin to build back trust.
- Try not to pay the blame forward. Speaking of responsibility, how many apologies have you heard in your life that start, “I’m sorry that you feel…”? Blaming your client, or anyone else, for an emotion they’re having just puts the onus of the problem on them. Start to repair the situation by shouldering the full blame for your part in making the other person feel a certain way.
- Be explicit about a solution. Sarah offered her client “ten hours of billable time for free, and to personally take care of any of the changes they needed.” Once you’ve admitted culpability and taken responsibility, it’s time to do what you can to fix it. Come up with a swift and actionable solution that you can undertake now.
- Being a responsible person means taking accountability when you screw up, even if it tarnishes your reputation in the short term. The bright side is that everyone’s fallible; you might even come out of your mistake with a closer and more meaningful relationship.
Adapted from How to Apologize to Customers | OPEN Forum.
Learn to Engage Employees and Customers
In a slow-growth economy, keeping the customers you already have can mean the difference between profit and loss. Jim Woods helps companies engage employees who go the extra mile to deliver extraordinary customer experiences. Visit our website to see our clients and solutions.