6 Words to Avoid When Apologizing to Customers
You have an upset customer and now you need to make things right. But how do you communicate that to the offended customer without making the situation worse? The hardest part of an apology is that your best intentions can be killed by a single wrong word.
If you have to apologize via a written statement, each word is critical. The reader will have time to critique the nuances of each word's meaning. But never let those worries keep you from apologizing. Apologizing is the first step to correcting mistakes and maintaining good customer relationships.
As you respond, work to avoid common words that can actually weaken an apology. Normally these are neutral words that we use every day. But when used in an apology, they can make your "sorry" sound a lot like "sorry, but not sorry."
You can divide apology-killing words into two categories:
- Diminishers: words that try to make the situation seem less severe.
- Deflectors: words that shift the responsibility away from the person delivering the apology.
Words that Diminish an Apology
Using these words can give off the impression that you don't think the issue is as important as the other person thinks it is. It's crucial to empathize with your customer so that they feel both valued and validated. We've all been on the other side. As customers we know how infuriating it is to when a service or product does not meet our expectations.
We've all had to deal with an impatient employee or supervisor who didn't want to accept the blame. They are willing to lose a customer because they are unwilling to simply say "I'm sorry this happened to you" and mean it.
Make sure your customers feel heard and validated by avoiding these diminishing words:
Just: Not only is "just" a diminisher, it is also typically used when you are delivering an excuse. Don't make excuses when you apologize. An excuse makes you look defensive. Lose the excuse to keep your apology strong.
Intention: "It wasn't my intention to ..." We never intend to cause a mistake. And a difficult situation is hard for everyone, so it is a natural impulse to want to make our intentions clear. But don't do it while you are apologizing unless you think there is a misconception about your intentions and expressing them could improve the situation.