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How to apologize to an unhappy customer

What to say to an upset customer

| Laurie Brown | ,

If you created a problem for you customer and they are upset, you need the correct way to make things better. You may be tempted to simply say you are sorry and hope that the problem goes away.

Why "I'm Sorry" doesn't cut it.

When you were a child you were taught to say "I'm sorry".  You probably learned to say it even when you didn't mean it (your eye rolls or tone of voice probably gave it away) but as long as you said it, you were okay.

This habit followed us into adulthood. When dealing with an upset customer we may find ourselves apologizing, even when we don't mean it.

I find myself getting angry when someone tries to placate me with a perfunctory and meaningless "I'm sorry." I distinctly remember a time when I was told that my refrigerator was not going to be delivered on Saturday as promised. The dispatcher repeatedly said "I'm sorry, I can't. I'm sorry, I won't, etc" I finally said "If you say "sorry" one more time I will never do business with you again."

Apologies without action are simply a way to get you to stop complaining. I read somewhere that an apology without an action attached was manipulation.

What can you do when you really are sorry?

A good apology needs three things:
1.    You need to express empathy and show that you get the issue and take it seriously.
2.    You need to let your customer know that the cause of the issue will be addressed.
3.    You need to offer your customer an action to make things better.

What does that sound like?
"I am so sorry that we messed up. I know that it created a huge problem for you. We are going to examine our processes so this doesn't happen again, and we will do xyz to make things right for you."

A good apology, with empathy and an action attached, can turn an unhappy customer that may never do business with you again into someone who becomes a customer that sings your praises.