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 apologizing” are 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.