Apologizing to a Customer

Jodee Redmond
Building a bridge from employee to customer
Good customer service helps build long-term business relationships.

In business, there are times when you will need to apologize to a customer. Learning to improve your business communication skills will help you handle the situation correctly. If you do, you stand a good chance of keeping that person as a customer after you have dealt with the situation.

Why Should Businesses Apologize?

The fact is that everyone makes mistakes. When someone buys your product or service and finds it falls below their expectations, their disappointment may even lead them to become angry. But not everyone deals with that disappointment and anger in the same way. The customer may simply decide to say nothing and look for another company with which to do business. However, if they chose to tell you that they had a problem, consider it an opportunity for you to make amends. If you adopt a mindset that a customer's complaint is an opportunity for your company to improve something about the way it does business, then you can focus on correcting the problem instead of making excuses -- a great key to customer service.

Another reason why you should be willing to apologize to a customer is that it is the right thing to do.

How to Apologize to a Customer

When you need to apologize to a customer, keep these tips in mind:

  • Acknowledge the problem. Let the customer know that you understand why they are upset. This helps defuse the situation.
  • Take responsibility for the problem without making excuses. It may be tempting to try to shift blame for the problem elsewhere, but this is not a good strategy. When you take responsibility for the problem on behalf of your company, it demonstrates to the customer that you (and your business) have integrity. This is a trait they will respect and remember.
  • Tell the customer you will deal with the situation. If the problem is with a product, let the customer know you will contact the manufacturer or distributor to discuss the concerns. If the difficulty came from a customer service issue, then tell the customer you will discuss the situation with the staff member involved. If it seems appropriate, you may also want to tell the customer you will review your policies and procedures to make sure the situation is not repeated.
  • Ask the customer what you can do to make amends. Offer to replace the product or refund the customer's money. In the case of a problem with a service, you can offer to perform the service again or give a refund. If you are not sure of what the customer would like, just ask. A simple, "What can we do to keep you happy or to keep your business?" will go a long way toward keeping this person as a customer.

In order to make sure all employees are aware of appropriate methods or making amends with customers, a seminar on good customer service may be a necessary event for you business.

Keep Your Customer Happy

When you apologize to a customer, your goal is to address the situation in a professional manner that lets the customer leave feeling they were treated fairly. The last thing you want to do is let the customer walk away feeling angry and dissatisfied.

A person who feels they have not been treated well by a business is very likely to tell other people about their experience. Based on this information (which may or may not be completely accurate), potential clients or customers may choose to go elsewhere to have their needs met. Your business needs a steady stream of customers or clients to stay in business and to continue growing. Even one dissatisfied customer can tell many people they know that they shouldn't deal with you, and this fact will affect your bottom line.

You want your business to have the reputation for providing exemplary customer service. When you apologize to a customer in a professional manner, you demonstrate that you are running an organization customers can trust.

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Apologizing to a Customer