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The Power of an Apology

How do you feel when someone apologizes to you?  Do you feel vindicated? Does it fire you up? Or do you feel like they genuinely care? Like they understand you are unhappy or have had a bad experience and they regret that?

A simple, heartfelt apology can change any conversation and take it from a heated place of contention to a calm place of cooperation.

Think of your last customer service call. Someone who was unhappy with your product or service called up to complain.  Maybe they were kind, maybe they weren’t. Regardless, they were calling because they were unhappy with what they paid for (or even what they got for free) and they wanted to make sure you knew just how unhappy they were.

How did you handle it? What did you tell them to calm things down? Did you defend your position, try to explain how and why the product is the way it is? Did you let them know that you’ll try to make them happy?

How would that exchange have been different if you had simply apologized?

Now, you might be thinking to yourself that you have nothing to apologize for. Your product/service are fantastic and apologizing will only give their complaint weight. You might even be concerned that apologizing is the same as admitting that your product isn’t up to snuff.

Or maybe you’re afraid that apologizing will invite them to ask for a refund.

I get it. In fact, that’s an incredibly common feeling!  What I’d like you to do is to take a moment and reflect back on the beginning of this when we talked about how you feel when someone apologizes to you?

Most likely you feel like someone cares, like someone listened, and like you have someone you can talk to and work with. You feel heard, and your frustration begins to soften.

This is the same way your customers will feel when you apologize. You don’t have to apologize because they are right. You can simply apologize.

If you’re still having trouble being okay saying “I’m sorry” consider these things you might be sorry for:

  • You’re sorry your customer is unhappy
  • You’re sorry for the inconvenience
  • You’re sorry you’re having to have this conversation
  • You’re sorry you answered the phone (let’s admit it, we all feel this way sometimes)

You can be sorry for any of these things and still simply, and genuinely, say “I’m sorry.”

And that single act will de-escalate almost any customer service situation. Regardless of what the customer’s complaint is, hearing that you are sorry will help them to move past the complaint and on to the resolution. It will help them break the cycle of “they sold me the crap product and now they don’t even care” and begin a cycle of “this person heard me, I can work with them.”

So, on your next customer service call, try apologizing. It really doesn’t matter what you apologize for. Just say “I’m sorry.”

See how that changes the tone of the conversation. For both you and the customer.