The Corporate Apology: How to Apologize In 5 Easy Steps

Successful African-American Businessman

You probably remember the story about dozens of JetBlue Airlines’ passengers being stranded for more than 10 hours on the tarmac without taking off. Would you believe that JetBlue still managed to get the JD Power & Associates Award for #1 Customer Satisfaction for the airline industry for that year?

How did they do it? They apologized outright to customers after the traumatic event. And here’s how they did it:

 “We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.”

A lot of companies are afraid to apologize because they think an apology assumes responsibility or that it may put the company at risk for liability. And I think this is a huge mistake.

The JetBlue example assumes total responsibility, holding nothing back. Look at how JetBlue goes on with their apology:

“Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration, and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.”

JetBlue’s apology acknowledges their passengers’ “pain,” assumes accountability, conveys sincere concern, and the apology is direct. Most companies are too cautious to pull off an apology like this. Maybe the willingness to offer a genuine, bold apology after a service mishap is part of the reason JetBlue has topped the JD Power rankings for best in customer service for four consecutive years.

If your goal is to restore customer confidence and retain more customers, you need to apologize to customers in the wake of any problem, regardless of fault. When you do, you create emotional bonds with customers and build and strengthen customer loyalty.

Following are the 5 simple steps to apologizing to customers.