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We all make mistakes, even customer service heroes. And when it comes to being the face of your organization, it’s important to know when you’re wrong so you can set things right.
Apologizing is equally as hard as doing the right thing 100% of the time because it requires the understanding to see your fault as well as the sincerity to convey an honest apology.
Canned responses like, “We apologize for the inconvenience” or “Sorry for the trouble, we are looking into it” can only get you so far, and when more than 60% of customers say that lack of personalization makes them feel like a ticket number, you need to do more when putting together an apology.
Below is everything you need to know about how to frame the perfect apology and set things right with your customers.
Apologizing to customers: what not to do
Before we get into how to properly apologize to customers, let’s look at what not to do when you’re in a precarious situation with a customer.
It’s important, regardless of what it is you’re saying, not to get heated, emotional, or take an upset customer’s complaints personally. Even with a cool head and open mind, however, there are some apology strategies you simply want to avoid.
- Putting the entire blame elsewhere – The easiest way to get a customer upset is to redirect the blame elsewhere and avoid the conflict. As the face of the company, it’s your responsibility to hear the customer out, sincerely apologize for the issue, and move on to finding a solution.
- Not acknowledging the impact of the problem – One of the worst things you can do to a customer is undermine the impact of their problem or pretend like it doesn’t exist. If a customer is upset, you need to show empathy and acknowledge the problem before moving on to providing a solution.
- Not suggesting a short term solution until a proper solution is found – Whether or not you have the means to solve an issue, even severe ones, you should always provide a temporary solution. If you can’t identify a workaround or alternative solution, try to get your customer in contact with someone who can, like a manager or supervisor.
- Not expressing urgency in getting the problem resolved – If you recognize the problem but aren’t taking it seriously, that’s going to come across to your customers, and they won’t appreciate the indifference.
- Not specifying an ETA for when the customer can expect a solution – Providing a time frame for when your customers can expect a solution will set their minds at ease and allow them to plan accordingly.
Avoiding a poor apology is just as important as making an appropriate one, and following these what-not-to-do guidelines will help you avoid further mistakes in the future.
How to properly apologize to customers
Now that we’ve gone over what not to do in an apology, let’s look at some excellent points you can follow to frame the perfect apology.
Again, regardless of what you’re saying, be sure to have a positive and pleasant tone, and be sure to be as sincere as possible in your responses. If you aren’t genuine, your customers will pick up on it, and there’s not much you can say to help your situation if customers don’t believe you’re on their side.
- Get the context – There’s not much you can do to help if you don’t understand the extent of a customers’ problem or the mistake your organization made. Be sure to get the full story before making any decisions, and ask a few confirming questions to ensure you understand exactly what’s going on.
- Acknowledge the mistake and its impact – Once you know what’s going on, be sure to acknowledge the mistake and its impact. Even if it’s not your fault directly, you need to take ownership for your organization’s mistake. Acknowledging that mistake will be the first step to appeasing your customer and showing them you’re there to help.
- Empathize (we are all customers at some point) – We all know what it’s like to be in a customer’s position with a defective product or a delivery mix-up. It’s often a stressful experience and one the surest ways to have a positive impact is to show empathy. Tell your customers you understand their frustrations, and speak with a tone of sincerity.
- Avoid templates and canned responses – Customers want to be treated like people, not tickets, and an easy way to get on their bad side is to give them a cliche canned response. Put together a response that directly correlates to their issue without the platitude of “so sorry for the inconvenience.” Rather, try “I’m so sorry that we mixed up your order. Let me see what I can do to help.” The more specific you are to their needs, the better.
- Manage and set expectations – Once you’ve decided on a solution or set of solutions, manage those responses and set up expectations like ETAs on when they can expect a resolution. If you don’t have an ETA or any direct solution, try to offer alternative solutions or redirect them to someone who is better suited to assisting them.
- Follow up – Even if everything went well, you followed the guide, and the customer seems satisfied with the entire experience, it’s important to give them a follow up. Follow ups show you care and ensure that you don’t make the same mistake in the future. A sincere follow up can also increase your chances of turning a mistake into a life-long, loyal customer.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but how you respond and choose to handle those mistakes will be the thing that defines you as an organization. Follow these tips and watch as angry customers turn into life-long connections.
Gladly makes it easy
With Gladly, you have all the context you need on a customer, their previous purchases, and their entire conversation timeline so you know exactly what’s wrong before you’ve said “hello.”
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