Apologies Expanded

I was reading the June 2006 issue of Inc. Magazine and came across this quote:

“Their research found that the least effective apologies are those in which people shrink from truly taking responsibility for their errors and instead try to placate the wronged parties by shifting blame and offering some kind of compensation (say, offering a discount on future purchases.”

Before you say I’m wrong about the advice I give, here’s the next part of the paragraph:

“Apologies, they found, are most effective when the offending parties accept full responsibility for their actions, explain why the violation happened, demonstrate how they’re planning to address the problem in the future, and offer, where appropriate, some form of reparation along with the apology.”
Sound familiar to what I said? See, Service Untitled provides advice similar to that of a college professor and his associate published in the 2004 Journal of Management. This post talked about keeping customers in the loop and provided almost the same advice:”If your service is down, the first thing a customer should see when visiting your web site is “Service Down? Click here for more information.” with the following information:

  • What happened.
  • What caused it.
  • What’s being done about it.
  • When it will be back up and running.
  • What’s being done to prevent the problem from happening in the future.
  • What, if any, compensation the client will get.
  • Who to ask if you have any more questions.”

Apparently, if you fail to include the above mentioned elements in your apology (why it happened, what’s being done to fix it, and the possible compensation), you may do more harm than good. Inc. also says how apologies can sometimes be used as evidence in court, so watch what you say. (Best to check with your lawyer for the exact details on that.)

Inc.’s advise is to be up front and sincere. These two things will help you go far in a lot of things. These two character items (for a lack of a better phrase) should be ingrained into your company’s customer service culture (assuming you have one – if not, work on building it) as they do truly make customers feel better and respect your company more.

2 Responses to “Apologies Expanded”

  1. Meikah Delid said:

    May 29, 06 at 11:56 pm

    You are right about several things here, one of which is acknowledging any wrong or mistake that we’ve done. I believe in customer service, what’s important is how you handle the situation. Customers don’t really expect you to solve their problems or take away their inconvenience all at once. They want to know if you care enough to attend to their concern promptly and sincerely.

  2. Service Untitled » Robert Scoble knows customer service. said:

    Aug 28, 06 at 12:16 pm

    […] I am not sure if Automattic posted an update about what was wrong, what they were doing, etc. (explained here and here ), but if they didn’t, they should have. Akismet has a big impact on a lot of blogs and spam on blogs is a gigantic problem. I am also not sure what the company’s tech support department did to update people as they sent in complaints, but I’m hoping they provided updates as they had them. Again, if they didn’t they should have. […]