How to Apologize to Customers Without Seeming Lazy

Customer Support July 24, 2018
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How to Apologize to Customers Without Seeming Lazy

Making mistakes is human.

Naturally, when we make mistakes we need to say sorry as Kris Gage put it. But here’s the thing, the best intentions don’t always lead to the best results.

That said, there’s a lot of apologizing in the support and success world.

As a customer success agent, you might find yourself saying “sorry” thousands of times a day. Replying to customers’ tickets is no picnic — especially if they’re frustrated with something.

Still, saying “sorry” usually isn’t enough. “Sorry about that” is worse.

Sorry about what? What are you saying sorry for? Does that help your customer in any way?

If you’re an automatic “sorry” say-er, then this post is for you.

Here’s a few ways you can apologize without seeming lazy.

A good apology always starts with active listening

It’s easy to jump in right away and answer the ticket.

A successful support team will give space to the customer. So that they express their concerns in details.

The more you listen, the more you’re able to look at the full picture. Thus having a global understanding of the issue and a way to solve it.

Turning the negative experience into a pleasant one starts with one simple action: getting into the state of mind of the customer you are dealing with.

We do this by actively listening. Listen for what the customer says and how they say it.

This will help you both accurately define the problem and be more empathetic.

Share the customer frustration

Customer support is for people by people.

Austrian medical doctor Alfred Adler defines empathy as “seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.”

That means without empathy, you won’t be able to retain more customers. When a customer files a complaint, they are either upset or blocked by something. (Or both in some cases.)

As a customer success agent, your top priority is to first acknowledge the frustration and clarify the issue.

Here’s an example you can start with:

“Thanks so much for your message! I apologize for the frustration that issue with XYZ might have caused. I’ve definitely been there before.”

Leverage the power of “thank you”

“Thank you” is a powerful phrase. If you ever need to disarm someone, begin by thanking them.

Even for pointing out something critical about your product.

Customers love knowing how important they are to you and that they’ve helped in some way.

“Thank you” can also transform you into a positive experience provider. The strategy in hand cannot be effective in all situations.

Hiding behind fluffy words won’t get you anywhere.

Follow up when necessary

When you apologize to a customer, usually it’s only the beginning of the process.

Great CS teams know that following-up aids in customer retention and overall customer satisfaction. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial that a CS team both provides an amazing experience and sets the proper expectation for that experience.

Still, 56% of customers struggle with poor follow-up. And 48% of customers that experience a poor follow-up share their bad experience with 10 people or more according to Harvard business review.

Another study revealed that only 24 companies (out of 1,000) attempted to follow-up with their customers.

That’s only 2.4%. And it’s a pretty gross number, but an easy one to beat.

Offer an apology gift

So what should you do if you really messed up with a customer?

Maybe not you personally, but something went horribly awry with a particular account?

Jagdip Singh, a professor of marketing at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, revealed the findings of his research about customer satisfaction.

According to him, CS teams should aim for apology gifts instead of raw sorry texts.

Now what about the apology gift?

Depending on the state laws, businesses will go for a refund because it cuts ties of your customer with your business.

You could offer them an extension of your services instead, but it’s somewhat risky if they’re already unsatisfied with something.

Which means you might want to examine the relationship and offer something that could humanize the experience. Cookies, wine, tickets to a game, pizza for the whole team, and more could be amazing ways to mend the bridge.

Ask for feedback on how to improve the service

It’s easy to say sorry and move on.

Constantly saying sorry is not sustainable. In a previous article, we highlighted the importance of customer support teams when it comes to customers feedback.

Apologies are golden opportunities to ask for feedback for the product. A frustrated customer is an honest customer.

Asking for feedback may range from a simple reply to your agent email, to a full survey.

Here are few examples on how to do it with elegance.

“We really don’t want this to happen again with you or anyone else. Can you share with me your suggestion to make this a better experience moving forward? I will make sure your feedback is followed through. Thank you for helping us truly make our product/service better”.

“We are determined to offer our customers the best experience possible. We would like to hear your feedback regarding our services.“

“We pride ourselves in providing the best possible experience to our customers. To serve you better in the future, we have prepared this quick survey. It takes less than 60 seconds to answer.“

 Automate the whole process

Let’s be honest, as a customer agent you deal with thousands of apology tickets on a daily basis.

At some point, you will discover that you are dealing with similar tickets . And you are writing the same responses over and over.

Consider providing sample scripts for different situations. Such a process is an infinite loop: Write samples, get feedback from your customer lead and store in the database.

This is not as easy as it seems. Giving feedback the wrong way can ruin everything.

How? Just ask!