Appropriately Apologizing

When is it okay to apologize? You don’t want to look incompetent, you do not want to admit you were wrong in some situations, and it may not have been your fault. I am open to discussing this matter. In my opinion, there are some situations where you need to apologize, just not pathetically. Remember, this is just my opinion and company policy supersedes my opinion.

About a month ago, I listened to a customer service call where the customer was transferred to many different people and put on hold for what seemed like forever. It wasn’t this next employee’s fault, and it was unfortunate that the previous employees could not help this person. But now he can! He did not apologize, the company may seem incompetent. That’s not the image we want to portray, the company is a professional, upstanding place of business that relies on repeat and loyal business. One way to handle this is with empathy. For example say, “Wow, it sounds like you’ve already spent a lot of time with us and your time is important so let me take care of you quickly.” Follow through and don’t over promise too please. You don’t want to make matters worse.

What if it is the customer’s fault? Let’s say that the customer made a mistake but doesn’t know it yet and is very upset. Maybe they didn’t know/missed a policy or fee change. Keep in the back of your head before you speak these things:

  • We are all human
  • Don’t be insulting, not too defensive
  • Use a kind tone and words

 Last thing you want to do is to sound condescending. Here’s an example of what I’d say, “I understand your frustration, you received a fee for _______. However, there was a policy change on _______, and a fee is to be assessed when ______.” From there you can determine if a courtesy reversal is appropriate. Being flexible and understanding can go a long way in turning the situation around while standing firm on policy and keeping the customer’s business.

It is not appropriate to

  • Pass the buck
  • Be rude, duh
  • Beat around the bush (so many idioms)

Lessons Learned:

  • Over apologizing makes the company look incompetent
  • Use empathy
  • Stand firm when appropriate
  • Be flexible when able
  • Don’t be condescending

Thank you big lil brother for your assistance with this.


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