“I Don’t Want Your Apology!”

I received an interesting comment from laughingcsr to my post on Apologies that calls for a follow-up:

I have no problem saying I’m sorry… it’s the reply “I’m sick of hearing people say they’re sorry” or “No, you’re not.”

I actually anticipated this because the issue commonly comes up in training and coaching sessions. Sometimes customers will respond negatively to an apology. Yet, I’ve learned a few things from analyzing tens of thousands of phone calls and being involved with countless Customer Satisfaction surveys:

  • The number of customers who respond negatively to an apology are few. Data consistently bears this out. I know it’s easy to take a few truly negative, but isolated incidents and turn them into a broad generalization like “customers are always…” (this is no ill reflection on Maria Palma’s blog, btw!), but the truth is that the vast majority of customers respond positively to apologies when they are sincerely and properly delivered.
  • I don’t want your apology” or “Stop apologizingare classic customer responses when they feel like I’ve done nothing to take ownership for or resolve their issue, thus all I’ve done is apologize. I addressed this in more depth in the post: Apologies (Part 2) – The Reason.
  • No you aren’t” is a customer response that can stem from lack of resolution (the previous bullet) or it can be rooted in the fact that my apology, indeed, communicated insincerity. Insincerity can be communicated by tone (a flat voice inflection), timing (waiting until the very end of the call to toss it in and check it off the QA list) or wording (a general “sorry” isn’t as effective as “Sorry you’re having trouble with that. I know how frustrating it can be…“)

I have heard customers who are angry and refuse to be satisfied, but they are few and far between. In most cases, customers will respond positively if you apologize sincerely and resolve their issue.

  5 comments for ““I Don’t Want Your Apology!”

  1. May 25, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    I think there comes a time with most truly irate customers where there is a real need to speak plainly. By this I don’t mean, “I hate you, get off my phone and never call me again!”. What I do mean is dropping that “Customer Service Tone”, that sickly sweet, I-only-live-to-serve-you tone that many people seem to get stuck in.
    Instead, when I encounter those people that will not be handled, I try to speak a little more brusque and less soft. Not rude, or mean, but speak as to-the-point as they chose to speak to me.
    An example of this kind of conversation is:
    “Look, you are right. I’m not going to make any excuses. We have screwed this up. I’m ready to try to help you as much as I am able. Here are the options I can offer you. Which of these do you want?”
    If that sort of talk does not work, I ask them if they want to speak to a supervisor or want to know how to contact the corporate office because there is nothing more I am able to do for them.
    If they want to rant more and yell more, or just ask you to understand how incredibly hurt they are by the treatment they have recieved, there comes a time when there’s really not much point in continuing to talk to them.
    Sometimes customers can be like children, if we let them have tantrums, it does no one any good. Someone has to be the adult-its a shame that it has to be the CSR sometimes.

  2. May 25, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    You’re right, AC. There’s no question that there are those insatiable customers who, like temperamental children, will not respond no matter what the CSR does or says. But, as you masterfully outlined, there is a process that you go through before throwing up your hands.
    Unfortunately, I run into the occasional CSR whose world view states ALL customers are going to respond with “I don’t want your apology” and so they choose never to apologize.
    btw, I hope you’re enjoying your respite. Miss your posts!

  3. May 25, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks. I miss posting. I find I’m just lingering around wanting to post but trying not to. It’s kind of a fast if you know what I mean.

  4. May 25, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    Yep, I do. Hope the batteries are getting recharged – the heart refreshed.

  5. May 27, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Angry callers are difficult to deal with in any industry. You can only do what you can do… If you need a little call center humor to get you ready for the next angry call, check out http://www.callcentercomics.com

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