When we make a mistake, the least we can do is say sorry – and we’re already on the road to making things better. This goes for business, too.
Ryan Jackson of Gemini Parking Solutions explains why businesses should apologise more readily, to deliver excellent customer service.
How easy is it so say ‘Sorry’?
An apology, to my mind, is one of the most important ways to deliver excellent customer service. This tiny act has an exponential impact on your clients and on your business success.
No customer wants poor service, disruption, or non-delivery. Most aggrieved or even mildly disconcerted customers will contact a business braced for battle. Their hackles are up.
Many staff are defensive and afraid to admit mistakes. They take a stance and make excuses. This only exacerbates the situation and escalates hostility. A recipe for disaster, and the likelihood that your business will be damaged – not just by the loss of that single customer, but by the bad reputation you gain when that customer takes to Twitter or voices their anger in their business networks.
It makes common sense to serve the customer well, whatever the situation. One tiny change in attitude and response to clients develops trust and builds loyal relationships, generating more clients and business.
Businesses will review and amend their processes to reduce or remove the potential for mistakes; but risk and errors – whether technical, human or out of your control – will always occur.
Many businesses, whether they are SMEs or huge conglomerates, make the error of denying their mistakes and not taking accountability for displeasing customers. But nothing is more frustrating for a customer than facing a business – or their representative staff member – who demonstrates no awareness of their accountability.
Accountability is Key
Businesses taking responsibility for their inactions, neglect, error, or even for matters outside their control are vital to the customer. But businesses who can’t admit their errors, who make excuses or say there’s nothing they can do, are infuriating.
When a business dismisses any issues, it loses customers. They need to empathise with the customer, listen to their concerns, and see their point of view. Then apologise. Even if it’s not their fault. By all means, say you’re sorry for their inconvenience, and find a way to make amends. Communicate with them. Investigate, accept the learning, and take action to make sure that the situation doesn’t happen again.
Companies will often blame other people – even the customer! This is unacceptable behaviour. And there will be consequences.
Encourage accountability at all levels of the company, so there is a general acceptance of professional responsibility and personal accountability embedded in the culture and values of the business.
Create a culture of ‘no-blame’ in your company. Give staff the benefit of and allowing them to make mistakes without fear of punishment – as long as they accept accountability and learn from their mistakes. Instil the attitude that they should recognise the learning outcome from any service shortfall, and put that learning to use in future.
Encourage staff to accept ownership and responsibility – not for their work alone, but for all aspects of your business. When mistakes are made or standards slide, encourage employees to apologise – without any question, excuses or blame. This will accelerate your customer trust.
For truly excellent customer service, encourage staff to do whatever it will take to resolve an issue, above and beyond expectations. An unhappy customer is everybody’s problem – not just the customer service staff’s responsibility.
Don’t let staff pass on complaints to somebody else, if they can help it. There’s nothing more infuriating for a customer than being passed from pillar to post, or being told, ‘I’ll leave X a message’. Allow staff to accept responsibility and resolve the problem by taking effective action.
In a world of litigation and complaints, in a world of global social media use and wide public airings of dissatisfaction, it makes sense for businesses and their staff to accept responsibility and take ownership.
Some companies have staff targets to minimise time spent on calls and utilise scripts to dispense with customers as quickly as possible. But basic human empathy, kindness and emotional intelligence pays dividends. This starts with appreciating the customers concerns – apologising – and making amends.
Given the large profits many companies are making, they can afford to invest in some humanity. If they do not value the customer, the customers will go elsewhere.
I’m sorry, but it’s true.