To apologize or not to apologize? It shouldn’t really be a question. So many people think that when sales reps make a sincere apology to a customer it means that they are admitting their business was at fault. Well, maybe their business or staff really were at fault.
The best way to soothe an angry or disgruntled customer is by empathizing with them and accepting the responsibility for what has happened to them. And what could possibly show that you care better than a sincere apology?
Here are some key guidelines how to apologize to your customers which will make you excel at customer support.
There isn’t a more straightforward way to apologize than saying you’re truly sorry. If you have to apologize a thousand times for the same thing, just do it.
Don’t get frustrated or angry. Put a smile on your face and even though your only wish is to scream and shout, say “I’m sorry” and do your job.
But what if the error didn’t occur on your side? In customer service, a thing such as customer’s fault doesn’t really exist. Don’t make accusations and don’t make your customers fix the problem themselves.
Offer help and find the solution instead. No matter what, the customer is the one that will pay you for your effort (or decide that your work wasn’t worth anything at all).
Give the customer some validation by letting them know that you understand their problem is real. Be careful how you construct your apology though. Instead of saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” acknowledge the problem (and your responsibility) with words such as “I’m sorry for all this frustration we have caused you.”
It can be tricky to articulate. Luckily, there are many great books out there to help you out. Try The Art of Apology or The Customer Rules.
Just like it is important to own the problem, you should also offer an explanation for how or why it happened. This shows your customer that you are taking the time to understand what has happened to them.
Offering an explanation means you and your business are trustworthy and transparent. Having the time to explain also indicates that you care and you are working on resolving the problem.
A friend of mine once told me that being in business makes you an actor, a technical guru, and a tamer of wild animals all at once. You never know what kind of person you are about to deal with so you better be prepared to improvise.
Change your tone according to the customer’s mood and choose your words wisely. Using appropriate language, body language and facial expressions is the key.
You’ve acknowledged that there is a problem. You have taken the time to explain it. Now it’s time to actually fix it.
And while doing that, try to make reparations for your customer’s trouble. Offer them something extra. Free drinks at a restaurant. Or some personalized attention after solving the problem. Follow up with a call afterwards to make sure everything went well. Or add a simple closing phrase such as “I am here for you if you need any more help.”
There are many ways how to work your way through a sticky situation. And here is a little bonus tip from us to make your apology even more effective:
Don’t use terms that everybody else uses. Avoid apologies like: “Sorry for the inconvenience.” or even “Sorry for your trouble.” Personalize your apology to the specific situation and show your customer how important they are to you. Work their life into the phrases. Say things such as “I am so sorry you missed your flight” or even “I apologize that our software caused you to lose data.”
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