Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sorry is Never Underrated

Early in my career, I was told in training never to use the words "I am sorry" as this implied I or the company was guilty of something.

This went against everything I was taught growing up. I had been taught to apologise whenever I had caused someone pain whether it was intentional or by accident. But merely apologising was not enough as it was far too easy to say "I'm sorry" without having any meaning behind the words. This is why I was taught to realise why I was saying sorry was I just saying it to get out of a difficult situation as quickly as possible. Or was I saying because I actually took some time to realise that my cock-up had put this person into a terrible situation I would never want to be in myself?

So when I was told that I should never say sorry to a customer I was left somewhat confused. Was this a twisted ploy to try and hold power over the customer. Was it out of fear that the customer would leave the company. Or was it out of some narcissistic belief that they could do no wrong?

Naturally, I believed that if we were to provide exceptional customer service and build relationships with our customers we had to be willing to apologise. Saying sorry wasn't  an admission of guilt but rather about taking responsibility and showing the customer our desire and passion for serving and caring for their needs.

The fact that the customer was willing to take time out of their day to complain. Showed me that while they were not happy with something they were still interested in doing business with our company. When this happened it was an opportunity for us to wow the customer, to show them that we care about them and the experience they have with us and our service. Saying sorry here was shameful or was it an admission of guilt. Rather showing empathy here was our opportunity to show the customer that we care. It was a chance to reaffirm our commitment to them. It was a chance to improve on our business and the service we provided and wow the customer even more.

Taking this approach over the last 7 years I have learnt the following:

Sorry ≠ Guilt

For example, you are attending a funeral and offering the family your condolences, or your friend tells you that they have been diagnosed with an illness your instincts tell you to say sorry. In both cases, you have said that you were sorry and it didn't mean you were guilty of something. Like many other words "sorry" is just one way of expressing empathy. l am sorry..... doesn't mean that you were the cause of it.

When a customer is upset, own it, don't back away from it

This is a moment your customers will always remember. So don't fuck it up.  If a customer ever feels you were dismissive of their issue they will be quick to leave your company but not before telling their friend sand family never to do business with you.

But if you take the opportunity to turn it into an incredible moment they will remember you and your company and how you went above and beyond for them. putting them on the road to becoming a loyal customer.

Don't take it personally

Customers can get upset for many reasons. So don't take their outburst as a personal attack. It never is.

Don't try to analyse them or whether their outburst is valid. Don't try to see who really is at fault. Don't even act impartially. Because all you will end up doing is wasting your time and theirs. Instead offer an unfiltered, unadulterated full out "WE ARE SORRY".  Follow up with a commitment to resolve their issue going all the way to them true empathy.

Have a slice of humble pie

Humiliation and humility are not the same. By being humble you can put the customer's needs ahead of your own. This is not humiliation - the emotion that drives the guilty versus sorry debate. A debate I believe to be nothing more than a waste of good oxygen. As the debate sidetracks you from the goal of keeping you customers after their expectations have not been met or when they have had a less than desirable experience with your service.

Invest in a StatusHub

When you experience an issue, your customers will complain this will leave you with two options admit the issue and apologise or deny that it exists.

Within business, issues will occur and customers have come to expect it. However, if you always wait for your customers to find them before admitting they exist saying sorry will quickly lose all meaning.

By investing in a StatusHub you can link it to your monitoring systems and inform your customers of issues as they arise. This shows your customers that you are aware of existing issues and are working to fix them. Resulting in you building trust with your customers and having to use the word sorry a lot less. So when you do say "I am Sorry" your customers will know you really mean it.

There is a lot of great companies using StatusHub including Emarsys, Emailage, Concur, the University of Wales and Citrix. If you don’t have a status page for your product, take a look an article I published last year which discusses the 3 signs you should invest in a StatusHub.

If you would like to set up your own status page. You can avail of a 14-day free trial when you sign up with today.