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Three Things to Say to Clients Instead of “I’m Sorry”

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im_sorryWhen it comes to providing great service (to internal and external customers alike), saying, “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it.

Linda Sasser, CEO of Impacting Leaders, wrote two great blog posts explaining why these words aren’t enough – and what you should do instead. Below, I’ve included the key ideas from her posts. If you’d like to read the full versions, just follow the links below:

When we make a mistake or when we want to show concern for someone or something, the word “sorry” quickly comes out. Sometimes it even comes out without any feeling at all. It’s just another word we use to get us to the next subject or to wrap up a conversation.

We’re sorry. It’s complete. Moving on.

The thing is that if our client isn’t happy, then saying “sorry” doesn’t rid us of the issue. If we haven’t resolved the misunderstanding with our co-worker, sorry doesn’t fix it – and it isn’t where we should stop.

Going beyond the “sorry” goes beyond customer service or teamwork. It’s really about our mindset to serve to the fullest.

So what should happen after the “sorry”? Use your apology as the start of your fixing the situation instead of the end of your disappointing the person. Here are three ideas for what to do next:

Thank him. Instead of apologizing for your minor mistake or oversight, thank your customer for pointing it out. Then, say you’ll fix it. Then fix it. Easy peasy.

Own it. The only thing worse than someone chronically apologizing is someone who chronically makes excuses. Admit your mistake, and explain how and when you’ll fix it. “I completely overlooked that! Good catch! Give me 10 minutes and I’ll have that fixed!” That, my friends, is often all your customer needs or wants to know.

Explain your thought process and push back (when appropriate). Sometimes, your client’s requests or suggestions may not be in their best interest. If you put a lot of work or thought into your efforts and you still think you’re right, explain yourself. The better the relationship you have with your client (whether it’s an internal leader or an external customer), the more comfortable you should be with challenging them to see it from your point of view.

Are you a chronic apologizer? If so, stop it! (And for goodness sake, don’t apologize for apologizing too much!) It makes you seem too sensitive (and maybe even a little weak), and it makes the people around you hold back from being as honest as they need to be. Instead, use the three tips above to move beyond those two little words and focus on meaningful service recovery.

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