5 Tips for Issuing an Effective Customer Apology
Issues frequently arise that necessitate apologizing to customers. Here’s everything eCommerce pros need to know about saying “I’m sorry” the right way.
At some point, every company winds up needing to apologize to a customer for mistakes, order issues or other problems. From juggernauts such as Amazon to small eCommerce startups, no business is immune to having to say “I’m sorry.”
The key to turning this potentially negative situation into a positive one is how you approach it. By following a few crucial steps, you can even improve your chances of transforming a complaining customer into a person who still leaves you a 5-star review (or at the very least, does NOT leave you a negative one).
If you don’t think that’s possible, head over to Amazon and read some reviews. You will undoubtedly find a few 5-star reviews that say something along the lines of, “I was initially shipped the wrong item, but customer service was so friendly and handled everything so quickly, that I am still leaving a 5-star review.”
To learn how to build that type of rapport with your customers through effective apology tactics, read on.
Listen, and Pay Attention
Good customer service always begins with determining exactly what the customer’s needs are. When customers complain, you need to listen to every word they say about their experience (or read every word, if you’re receiving a complaint via email).
Give each customer your undivided attention and really assess the problem or circumstance. Don’t let your thoughts wander to what time you clock out or to how many customer inquiries you have waiting after this one. The customer you are communicating with should be your top priority at the moment. Listening to them carefully is the only way to truly understand the problem and figure out how to address it. We recently found this great article on listening skills if you want to learn how to improve yours.
Once you’re fully educated on the problem at hand, it is important to show empathy. This is perhaps the most crucial component of an effective customer apology.
Think about the times you’ve called or emailed customer support over a mistake that was made. Maybe you received an incorrect item, or a product you paid for was left out of your order entirely. If you felt like the person on the other end of the phone or email cared about what happened, you might be more likely to accept whatever solution they offered and shop with them again. But if the customer service agent was rude or acted like they didn’t empathize with what you were dealing with, you probably never revisited their store. In fact, you may have even left a negative review.
Empathy communicates that a company truly cares about the customer’s experience. Good responses to use include ones such as, “I completely understand your frustration. I would be very upset if I ordered [X item] and didn’t receive it! That is certainly not the kind of customer experience we strive for here at [X company].”
Offer a Genuine Apology
Once you’ve listened to the customer, assessed their problem and shown authentic empathy, it’s time to actually apologize. The wording you use here is paramount to how the apology is perceived by the customer.
Your apology should never, we repeat, never, contain the word “but.” Phrases such as, “I’m sorry this happened, but we are sure we packed that item in your shipment,” come off as decidedly unapologetic. In fact, that sort of statement makes it sound like you are potentially accusing the customer of lying. This will escalate the situation quickly and could certainly lead to a negative review or worse.
The best kind of apology is simple, empathetic, remorseful and completely genuine. Something along these lines can go a long way toward improving the customer experience: “I am truly sorry this happened. I would be very upset if I had ordered an item and it was left out of my shipment. That is not the kind of service we strive for at [X company], but we hope you’ll give us a chance to make it right.”
Apologizing may even be necessary when your company is not at fault, such as when a mail carrier fails to deliver a customer’s package. You may have had no control over the mistake, but the customer doesn’t want to hear excuses, they want to feel heard. At the end of the day, they have paid for something from your store that they didn’t receive. A great apologetic response in this case would be, “I am so sorry this happened! While we do not know why [X mail carrier] did not deliver your package, we are eager to make this right.”
Provide a Solution to the Problem
Finally, after apologizing, offer a solution to the problem. This may be shipping out a missing item, offering store credit, processing a refund or any other agreeable solution that solves the customer’s problem to your best ability.
Once you’ve fully addressed the issue, it is important to ask the customer if there is anything else you can do to assist them. Again, make sure you present a demeanor that shows you are genuinely eager to help.
No company ever hopes to make a mistake resulting in having to say, “I’m sorry.” But you can protect your business and ensure customer satisfaction by handling your apologies in an authentic, empathetic and helpful manner.
To learn more about improving customer communications and boosting response rates, check out Replyco. Being able to view and reply to all customer inquiries from one convenient hub is a great way to make sure no customer issue ever slips through the cracks!