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Richard Holland

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When An Apology Isn’t An Apology

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Regardless of how hard you work to ensure that your customers have an excellent experience, mistakes happen. No doubt you’ve had customers complain about something – it took too long for their vehicle to be serviced, there was a miscommunication in pricing during the sale, or a general failure to deliver on promises (big or small). Whether the complaint is relayed to the frontline employee, or the customer felt the need to go directly to management, apologies are usually made.

 

The problem is that, at times, your customer feels that they have received an empty apology and can recognize this type of apology a mile away. These “nonpologies” don’t accomplish anything more than relaying indifference to the customer.

 

Examples of nonpologies are:

 

“We made a mistake.”

 

“We apologize for it taking so long.”

 

“I’m sorry you’re unhappy.”

 

The reason these apologies have no weight in the customer’s eyes is because there is no acknowledgement of responsibility. Customers who complain are typically communicating a couple of things. First, they are unhappy and feel the need to express themselves, regardless of whether their problem can be fixed. Second, many customers (especially those who wish to continue to do business with you) simply want to know that you recognize the mistake, take responsibility for it and will take steps to ensure that the mistake will not happen again – not just to them but also to any other customer. Here’s one example:

“Mrs. Jones, I apologize that you had a poor experience at our dealership today. We value your business and recognize that we failed to provide you with the customer experience you desire and we like to deliver. We promise to look into this more to ensure that your next experience with us is more satisfactory.”

 

It doesn’t matter whether you feel that your business was in the wrong or not. Attempting to justify or make excuses for the mistake simply exacerbates the issue and further frustrates the customer. Managers who are engaged with the company have the instinctual desire to defend it and their employees. But is it really worth losing a customer?

 

Being cognizant of how you are perceived by customer through your actions (or inactions) is the first step towards building customer loyalty and increasing retention. Forget whether you are actually right or not.

It’s the customer’s perception that matters and they control whether your business is successful or constantly scrambling to replace defecting customers.

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