How to Genuinely Apologize to Customers Without Admitting Fault

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I’m sitting in my home office doing a run-through of my slide deck for a very special keynote I’m delivering at the GMA Consumer Complaints Conference in San Francisco next week, and I thought I’d share with you one of the focal points of the keynote: How to Genuinely Apologize Without Admitting Fault.

I’m a big proponent of apologizing to customers after service failures occur, regardless of who is at fault.  It’s important to me that my clients apologize to their customers sincerely and that they don’t open their company up for liability with that genuine apology. At the GMA conference, my audience will learn exactly how to genuinely and safely apologize.  Here’s a little excerpt from my remarks. I hope this helps you.

Studies show that an apology thwarts lawsuits and amasses positive publicity. Not only that, but a genuine apology after a service failure actually strengthens a customer’s emotional bond to a company.

A sincere apology after a service failure is financially sound, and it helps organizations restore trust and regain goodwill. But many organizations steer away from apologies for fear of litigation. They fear a heartfelt “I’m sorry” is perceived as “I take responsibility.”

There is actually a big difference between an apology and a disclosure. An apology is an expression of sympathy, regret or condolence. “I’m sorry” laws adopted in 36 states protect the medical industry from litigation. Under the “I’m sorry” law, an apology is no admission of liability. While the “I’m sorry” law protects only the medical industry, all industries can benefit from learning to safely apologize to customers and in turn, reap the financial benefits of reduced litigation costs and reductions in customer defection due to dissatisfied customers.

An apology can be genuine and safe at the same time. Here are sample expressions of a sincere and harmless apology:

  •  “I’m sorry that you had to make this call today.”
  • “I’m sorry for any frustration you may have experienced.”
  • “I’m sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding may have caused you.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Keep these 3 tips in mind when stating your safe apology:

  1. State only the facts of the situation. (NEVER share a haunch or your opinion as to what caused the issue.)
  2. Don’t assume fault for the mishap and don’t blame others.
  3. Apologize for the impact the situation had on the customer, not the issue itself. For example, “I’m sorry for any frustration this may have caused you.”

Making an apology to customers after things go wrong is positively related to satisfaction with the recovery. Offer your customers a safe heartfelt apology after a service failure, and you will not only restore customer confidence and regain goodwill, but you should also realize the benefits of reduced litigation expenses and claim costs.

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“I’ll fix the problem, but I will not apologize for a problem that is not my fault!”