Thursday, April 07, 2005

I'm Sorry...

Well, maybe I don't have anything to be sorry for right now (then again, well you don't always know how your acions affect others, right?)

So If I'm pretty sure I don't have anything to be sorry for right now you ask, then why apologize? I apologize friends, because those two little words happen to be two of the most powerful words in the English language, and beyond a shadow of a doubt THE two most powerful words in business/customer service.

Seth Godin got me thinking about this stuff today:

"It's really simple: most of the time, most of your customers will cut you slack if you just acknowledge that the outcome isn't the one they (think they) deserve.
People have a hard time with this. If someone feels as though they're treating you technically correctly, they don't want to apologize. They don't want to acknowledge the feelings of the other side. This is awfully short-sighted. These are words that are worth thousands and thousands of dollars in lost sales and word of mouth.

"You must feel terrible about what happened. I know I do. If there were any way I could figure out how to make this better for you, I'd do it." When isn't that a true statement when you're dealing with an unhappy customer?"

Wow. Think about that for a minute.

In my personal life, I say sorry alot. For example, if somebody bangs their elbow on their desk and says "Ow" I have been known to say "I'm sorry." At this point, people usually look at me funny and say something like "Why are you sorry, you didn't hurt my elbow." That's when I explain "It's my way of showing sympathy towards your sore elbow." As you can see:

sorry adj. sorri-er sorri-est
1. Feeling or expressing sympathy, pity or regret

See? Sympathy! Pity! I feel sympathy with your sore elbow, and maybe pity for the owner of said elbow (although pity could be a strong word there.)

The problem is, most people forget those two definitions of sorry, and purely focus on the regret aspect. That brings us back to customer service. Even if we didn't directly cause the problem that the customer is facing we can still say sorry. We aren't admitting that we were part of the problem by saying sorry in this case. It's like the table and the elbow - we can say "sorry" as a way of expressing sympathy, and pick up extra customer loyalty in the process.


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