Sorry

Read the following silently and then discuss in your small group.

I’ll fix the problem, but I am not apologizing for a problem that is not my fault.”

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When I explained the “Apologize for the problem” step in a workshop recently, a participant in the seminar said, “I’ll fix the problem, but I am not apologizing for a problem that is not my fault.”  Another person agreed, saying “An apology admits fault…why would we want to do that?”

I hear this a lot. So, let’s look at their sentiments.

I’ll fix the problem, but I am not apologizing for a problem that is not my fault.”

Good point. Almost never is the problem the customer service professional is responding to their fault. So why would they need to apologize personally for the problem?

  • It’s not about you personally. Of course it’s not your fault. But you are representing your company and you have a responsibility to actively work to regain customer goodwill. A sincere and unreserved apology conveys that you genuinely care about how the customer was treated. This is what it’s about…not you personally.

  • Apologizing can increase customer satisfaction. Research by TARP has shown that when an apology is perceived as genuine, customer satisfaction increases 10 – 15%.

  • A genuine apology makes customers feel emotionally connected to the company. Gallup research has shown that a genuine apology can actually strengthen a customer’s emotional bond to a company, leaving him or her more emotionally connected than customers who never experienced a problem. (Fleming & Asplund, 2007)

“An apology admits fault…why would we want to do that?” 

Actually, an apology doesn’t have to be an admission of fault. And it’s not even about placing blame.

Here’s how you can apologize when the problem is not the company’s fault:

  • “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; I feel awful about your problem.” 

Notice that none of these apologies admit fault or pass blame.


Discussion questions (The person in your small group who last had Vodka will lead this discussion.)

  1. Do you think a genuine apology could help you de-esclate situations with angry customers? How?

  2. How might we apologize in such a way that we come across as sincere as possible?