An Apology Can Go a Long Way

It is almost a lost art … to take responsibility, to be transparent and to deliver an apology to a person or a group that you have done wrong.

I have always told my sales staff that when a mistake or an error occurs it is critical that you quickly contact your client and let him or her know there has been a mistake, that we own the mistake and we will be in touch with you soon with a resolution that will make you feel whole. In most cases, a client’s frustration and anger is mitigated by this proactive approach, and that person becomes amenable to working with you to find a satisfactory solution for both parties.

Of course, you might not always be given the opportunity to make that first contact. Sometimes the other person will beat you to it. So if the phone rings and an angry client comes at you with a swinging bat, my best advice is to just say nothing and let that person talk. If you know you made a mistake, own it and simply reply with a sincere apology. I have found that more than 90 percent of the time the phone will go silent because the client expected excuses and is in disbelief that you are taking responsibility. From that point, find a solution that suits both of you, and you’ll find that building a stronger relationship becomes easier.

Reasonable people know that errors happen and, in the long run, a better relationship and a stronger trust will come when it is built on a foundation of truth and transparency.

We had a situation arise today where a client called because he was angry about his ad’s placement in the magazine. I listened to our sales manager provide a truthful, well-worded response that understood the client’s anger yet did not compromise the integrity of our business decision with regard to the ad placement. The individual’s response was curt and quick.

“I am not buying what you are saying and feel like you are patronizing me,” he said.

She politely ended the conversation with an understanding apology. An hour later, he called back to apologize to her for his passionate, yet caustic comment.

That was a stand-up thing for him to do, and it demonstrated a high level of integrity and professionalism. As a result of this incident, a stronger relationship has been formed between us. And there will be opportunities in the future where we will go above and beyond what this client expects from us.

It really is easy to say you are sorry. Many good things can and will happen when you do. 

Categories: Opinion