Say You Are Sorry: Quickly and Effectively


Too many salespeople avoid having to say they’re sorry. They fail to see it as an opportunity to “turn lemons into lemonade”.

Your customer service manager just came into your office with hair on fire to tell you that a customer’s angry. It could be a pricing issue, a delayed shipment, a quality problem or some other failure. The bottom line is you must apologize and make things right.

Responding quickly is most important. Do not put the apology off until tomorrow. Get your information about the error together from your internal staff. If needed, contact field people to get their input. Gather all your facts and have them at your fingertips. The longer it takes you to respond the more the customer is going to think you don’t care about his business.

Don’t be a wimp! Pick up the phone and call your customer. This is not the time for an email message. After the phone call, you can send an email confirming the conversation and the steps you are going to take.

Upon reaching your customer be prepared to listen. Resist the urge to defend yourself and your organization. Give your customer time to blow off a little steam. Listen intently, do not interrupt, you may learn something new. Next, apologize for any inconvenience or problem you caused. This demonstrates your confidence and strength. If your customer says something you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Again, listen closely. It’s very important you keep your composure if your customer is upset.

After he is done speaking confirm that you understand the problem. Then, explain what steps you will you take to avoid this same thing happening again. DO NOT make promises you cannot keep. That will just make matters worse. Then, let your customer ask you some questions and explain your action steps.

Be selective in your choice of words, don’t use words like “wrong” and “it wasn’t our fault” this will only raise his level of irritation.

You may be willing to solidify your apology with an offer of a discount or other allowance. Be sure to have thought that through so you are prepared if the request is made. If you cannot meet your customer’s request then explain why and provide another suggestion.

Research has shown that a properly executed apology can increase the customer loyalty and strengthen the relationship. Think about the last time you were disappointed and your supplier immediately and effectively corrected the error. Then remember when a supplier made a mistake and didn’t apologize, but just ignored the situation. Which one felt better?

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