Every business owner knows that mistakes and errors WILL happen, despite the care and diligence taken to ensure that failures do not occur. You can say it’s almost inevitable that at one point or another you will disappoint a client. Making a mistake, however, doesn’t mean that you must suffer devastating consequences. One of the keys to maintaining your reputation and retaining clients in light of any type of mistake is how you handle the situation, with one of the integral action steps being an apology.
It sounds simple enough, yet effective business apologies are often afterthoughts, slow to be made, and somewhat unsuccessful. It’s a shame, because when a mistake is handled correctly, the person who was wronged will often become an even more loyal customer. After all, when you do things correctly all of them time, they are apt to be taken for granted. Yet when an error is made and you are quick to apologize, take ownership and right the wrong, you can be on the path to creating a raving fan!
Here’s how to apologize the “right” way:
Be Sincere and Genuine
When issuing an apology, use “real speak” as much as possible. The words and intent should come from the heart, and you must “own” the situation. “We made a mistake,” “We caused a problem,” and other such verbiage that clearly communicates that you understand YOU are at fault and not someone else.
An apology that puts the blame onto the victim is not an apology at all; in fact, that may prompt further discontent and disappointment. It’s perfectly okay to explain what happened, but be careful to not make it appear as if you are trying to shirk responsibility for its occurrence.
The more timely the apology the better. While certain situations do require investigation, an initial apology must be forthcoming just as soon as the mistake is noted. Waiting days or even weeks to acknowledge the situation simply because you are doing your due diligence will cause unnecessary antagonism and anger that could be assuaged by a speedy apology.
Provide a Solution
While issuing a speedy and genuine apology is important, it is also essential to provide a solution or remedy for what happened AND to communicate how you will prevent the same situation from occurring again. Making a mistake once can be excused; making the same mistake again (and again!) will lead clients and employees to question your sincerity and intentions.
Trust is undermined when an unfortunate mistake is made. An apology is the first step to regaining trust and retaining a client. It will help them to feel more optimistic about the quality of your work and deliverables moving forward.
And much like a first impression, you only get one chance to make your apology count. Don’t ignore it!