Value of Apology in Customer Service
Southwest Airlines is perhaps one of best-run airlines in the world and a pioneer of the low-cost-carrier model. The company’s culture and focus on customer service are legendary. A recent article on the company’s official blog discusses the value of apologies.
Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry.”
People often misunderstand the intent of an apology. It is not an admission of fault. It’s an acknowledgment of a bad experience-no matter what happened. It’s doesn’t mean the Customer is always right-there’s no need to support, tolerate, or reward abusive behavior.
When things don’t go according to plan, an apology provides the opportunity to offer the Customer an assurance that you care about their feelings. An apology lets you reach out to the Customers who are affected by acknowledging the disruption/inconvenience, offering your assistance, providing an explanation, and letting them know you’re working to prevent a repeat performance (if applicable).
If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to admit that-just don’t speculate and be sure you let the Customer know that you will try to provide them with an answer within a reasonable timeframe.
Call for Action: Learn to Express Regret
In business, social or personal settings, many of us balk at offering apologies, even if we are wrong. We do not realize that a sincere expression of regret is healing: an honest ‘I am sorry’ can soften negative emotions (anger, resentment, etc.) our actions trigger in other people. An apology can restore goodwill and mend relationships.
Here are three steps to an apology.
- Take responsibility and acknowledge the impact of your actions. “I realize … I caused …”
- Express regret for your actions. “I am sorry.”
- Offer a remedy and pledge to change. “I will improve.”
Here is an example. Suppose you promised to watch a movie with your spouse on Valentine’s Day. However, your boss asked you to attend a late-evening teleconference with an international client. You could not go home in good time for the movie. Your spouse is upset. Say, “I realize I am late for the movie. I regret I did not excuse myself from the meeting early. I am sorry. Shall we watch the movie on Friday evening?”
The secret to truthful apologies is to keep your apology-statements straightforward and short. Do not attempt to explain or rationalize your behavior–these just dilute the sincerity of your apology.