This article offers reasons why companies need to apologise and how to represent your company, so any apology is taken as sincere and without negative connotations.
Why Proper Apologies are Important
Unfortunately, as many companies lean on apologies as a means of providing exceptional customer service, they have started to lose any sort of true meaning.
Gene Marks discusses this at length in the article, ‘3 Reasons Why Apologizing Hurts Your Business’, essentially he states that over apologising, especially for things that are beyond your control, affects your business negatively. It leads to:
Apologies at their heart are an acknowledgment of a mistake, and they should remain as such. If your company is in the habit of ‘saying sorry’ for minor inconveniences, then a culture shift might be needed.
Investigate better ways of communicating to your clientele that you are sympathetic to their concerns and needs. Most people are aware that these every day apologies do not come from a true place of care or concern, so they are ineffectually pointless.
Well Structured Apologies Create Power Dynamics
It probably goes without saying, but if you’re going to apologise it needs to actually mean something. Did you hurt the person or organisation involved? Do you intend to alter the way you do things, so it doesn’t happen again? Are you willing to acknowledge and understand the reason the problem occurred?
If you answered yes to these questions, then it’s most likely that your apology will come off as genuine. If you have not then often people will see through the insincerity of your apology and not only will it negate any possible good faith, but it opens your organisation up for ridicule and embarrassment.
If you gain a positive result from your apology it can create movement away from the issue and put focus on how you handled the situation, this creates a positive power dynamic. Ideally if you are trying to make up for any negative connotations caused by an error, regardless of who or what is at fault, you want a positive outcome that allows your business to move on and return to continued forward thinking.
If the result from your apology is a negative power dynamic, caused by being seen as untruthful, insincere or placing blame on others, you will not be able to move past the problem as easily. This can lead to issues that can last many months, or possibly years.
Making Apologies Personal and Real
Ethan Schrieberg makes the statement that, ‘Remorse is one thing, but demonstrating fundamental corporate change is what people really want to see.’. This is the more effective way to do things and shows true accountability for fixing fundamental issues raised by customers.
An apology should be heartfelt, and if the issue has been caused by corporate culture, then it needs to change. And you need to be showing the change, people simply don’t believe what they hear. They want action, so in your apology explain why and how changes are going to be put in place so the incident does not happen again.
Never say you’re sorry just for the hope that something will go away. Doing this will damage a business more than not apologising in the first place.
The Apology Should Be Appropriate to the Incident
The apology should be relevant to what happened, and the level of publicity must be suitable, so it has the chance of making the impact that you require.
Generally, there are three types of mistakes that are cause for an apology, individual, team, and your clients:
Jaclyn Westlake covers this in more detail in her article, ‘Here’s How the Best Bosses Apologize When They Make a Mistake’.