In most customer service training manuals, an apology is associated with empathy which is defined as identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives. Keep in mind, an empathetic apology means that you identify with the customer’s situation, feeling or motive. It doesn’t mean you agree with it, think it’s valid or that you accept blame for it. It simply means that you identify.
Remember, in my previous post I established that customers want the problem resolved AND they want to know you care about what they are going through. Bottom line: an appropriate apology is the most simple and effective way of communicating to customers that you identify/care about what they are going through.
To be effective, I find that an apology necessitates a variation of the word “sorry” or “apologize“.
- I’m sorry
- We’re sorry
- I apologize
- Let me extend an apology
- We apologize
I often hear the word “unfortunately” used as a substitute for an apology (e.g. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to ship your order“). But the word “unfortunate,” by definition, does not identify with the customer. The root word is “fortune” or “luck.” It communicates an understanding that you’ve been unlucky, or to be more direct that “fortune screwed you” but doesn’t really communicate your identification with what happened. For that empathetic identification you need an apology (e.g. “I’m sorry, but your order won’t arrive as we originally estimated.”).
Next post: Apologies (Part 4) – The Delivery