One could argue that there isn’t a more accurate statement than, “To err is human.” Everyone makes mistakes, but what’s more significant is how you rectify those mistakes. Despite being only two short words, the phrase “I’m sorry” can have an enormous influence on a negative situation. While at times it can be difficult to swallow your pride and apologize, in the business world, the ability to apologize in a graceful manner is a necessary skill—especially when dealing with customer complaints.
“Done right, an apology can enhance both reputations and relationships. Done wrong, an apology can compound the original mistake, sometimes to disastrous consequences,” says Holly Weeks, principal of Holly Weeks Communication and author of “The Art of the Apology,” a column published in the Harvard Management Update in 2003. Here are several pointers for crafting and delivering a perfect apology.
When a customer first approaches you with a complaint or issue, show concern and give them your undivided attention. Before you apologize it is essential to listen to the customer’s grievance carefully. Listening to the customer is the only way that you can identify the problem and determine exactly for what you should be apologizing. While you are listening, remember to stay calm—even if you disagree with what they are saying or think that they are being dishonest. In addition, be polite and do not interrupt them while they are talking. It is best to wait until they have finished speaking before you respond to their comments.