If you’ve been in business for any extended period of time, you know that you’re not going to satisfy every customer. Occasionally, a customer is going to get ticked off at you. They might threaten to stop doing business with you, or they may go online and say some nasty things about your company. The situation might have been caused by a mistake you or someone at your company made. Or it could have been caused by something that was totally out of your control.
While I don’t subscribe to the theory that the customer is always right, I do believe there are many instances where your best play is to apologize and try to smooth things over with the customer. And because you only get one chance to apologize (and you can’t apologize for a bad apology, Larry David), you have to make sure you get the apology right.
Here are some helpful tips for apologizing to a customer.
- Don’t blame others—Customers hate it when companies try to pass the buck. Even if you’re not directly responsible for the mistake, you need to take full responsibility and give a sincere apology. Playing the blame game will only upset the customer more.
- Don’t add a “but”—You can’t say “We apologize, but…” and expect the customer to accept your apology. Swallow your pride, apologize, and move forward. A half-hearted apology is often worse than no apology at all.
- Be prompt—Don’t wait until it’s too late to apologize. You have to take swift action when a customer is angry at your company. The longer you wait, the angrier they get and the harder it gets to win the customer back.
- Make sure you actually apologize—Apologizing means using words like “sorry” and “apologize.” Too many times, people are afraid to fully apologize because they think that admitting guilt will harm their reputation. But the reality is that you have to fully apologize in order for the customer to get over their anger and resentment toward your brand. An effective apology can restore that relationship.
Have you ever had to apologize to a customer? How did you handle it?