How To Apologize To A Customer

Dealing with customer service can be stressful, but learning how to apologize to a customer will help you to establish a basis to make every situation better. Most customers who complain mostly want to be heard, and your job is to navigate through the emotion to get to the problem, and find a satisfactory solution. When you learn a few helpful techniques, this job becomes much easier.

  1. Sympathize and listen. When a customer approaches you with an issue, listen to what they have to say. Ask questions to get to the heart of the problem. Many customers have a story, and would feel better if they were just listened to. Figure out their problem and while you work on fixing the issue, let them tell their story. They'll be happier in the end if they got a chance to vent their frustration, and they will with you, or your supervisor if they don't feel they were heard.
  2. Ask questions. If you ask questions, it feels like you really care and are interested in the story the customer is telling.  If they are complaining about you, it may be hard to sit and listen to them tell you what you did wrong, but try to be sincere about asking for more information. "How could I do better?"
  3. Make it a company effort. You apologize and your company apologizes for the missed opportunity to serve the customer better. The more apologies someone gets, the better. A personal apology and a company apology can go a long way for word of mouth recognition from a customer.
  4. Try to be the first to apologize. No matter what happens, even if it was the customer's fault, apologize anyway. Just making the effort to want to be correct and sympathetic to the customer goes a long way. So the first moment you notice a frown, or something is going to take a bit longer, or anything, apologize first, then ask if there is anything you can do. The best way to apologize to a customer is to apologize before they ever think to complain. Someone's waiting in line for just a minute? Apologize for the delay. Plates are hot? Apologize and prepare the customer ahead with a warning about it being hot.
  5. Send a formal apology letter after the incident. When possible, send a formal apology letter, and perhaps a coupon, discount, or free offer with the mailing. It will help smooth out hurt feelings, and customers will feel more loyal coming back to a place that treats them so nicely.
  6. Forget about excuses. Don't bother with them. They won't fly no matter who you talk to, and it won't matter to the customer that you were having a bad day, that the attendant left the water running, or that you forgot to pay the power bill. When you learn how to apologize to the customer, you soon learn that excuses only extend the session and do nothing for the customer. They don't care what the reason was that the mistake was made, they just want to hear it won't happen again.
  7. Take responsibility. Assume it was all your fault from the beginning, and say so. Make an effort to figure out how to fix the situation in the future, and state this to the customer, along with thanking them for bringing the issue to light. It is always important to get critical feedback. When you assume responsibility, you become in charge of the situation and can skip the blame game, get the apology out there, and move on.
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