To your customers, YOU are the company. Therefore, it is up to you to apologize for mistakes when things go wrong.
It is in our nature as humans to save face. Few of us take any pleasure in admitting when we are wrong. It is especially difficult to apologize in embarrassing situations or when your customer is angry and confrontational.
Customers, however, don’t really care about human nature or your pride. They become irritated and distrustful when dealing with sales and customer service professionals who are defensive and unwilling to accept any responsibility for mistakes. You have dealt with these people in your own life and you know how it feels.
The fact is, sooner or later you are going to personally screw up and let your customer down. Things like failing to keep a commitment, having to go back on a promise, or missing a meeting or scheduled call shouldn’t happen, but they sometimes do. You are human.
When you make a mistake, face up to the situation as quickly as possible and apologize. Apologies and admitting where you have been wrong provide your customer with the opportunity to observe your character.
Sincere apologies are accepted and appreciated, and they demonstrate your integrity (provided you are not apologizing for the same mistake again and again). Sincere apologies also quickly diffuse confrontation and tension in customer service situations.
The key is humility (putting your pride aside), timeliness, and sincerity. A little humor or creativity, especially in an embarrassing situation, can also go a long way.
But THEY Did It
Of course, it is one thing to apologize when the mistake is your own. It is an entirely different thing when the issue was caused by someone else.
The reality is, as an account manager or customer service rep, there are so many things out of your direct control that impact your customer. You’ll spend much more of your time apologizing for these things than for your own failures.
Here is a brutal fact that you must understand: The quickest way to lose your customer’s trust and ultimately your customer is to blame “THEY”.
I’m sorry, there isn’t much I can do it about it. THEY made the rule that way.
THEY told me I couldn’t.
THEY screwed up the delivery.
THEY didn’t get it done in time.
I don’t understand why THEY keep doing that.
Blaming they has an endless array of variations including blaming the computers, system, warehouse, production facility, office, the list goes on.
To your customer, YOU are the Company
The net result is each time you push blame off on someone or something else, you weaken the foundation of trust you have with your customer and diminish the respect they have for you.
You see, your customer does not care about they. Your customer will never love they. To your customer, you are the company. You are the warehouse, office, computer, shippers, production facility, engineers, and service crew.
Your customer trusts you to solve their problems. When you blame they, you become smaller. When you abdicate responsibility and accountability for your customer’s problems, concerns, happiness, and experience by deflecting blame on others, you are no longer a worthwhile partner and you open the door to your competitors to steal your accounts.
I know it is hard to suck it up when you are getting your butt kicked by a customer for something that was out of your control. It stinks and you’ll naturally default to defense. Don’t do it. Instead, take a breath, pause, and say, “I’m sorry.” Then take responsibility and get to work solving the problem.