A temp arrives late to their assignment.

A pressing job order slips through the cracks.

Your client was overcharged on their last statement.

We’re all human – and we ALL make mistakes. But in business,  regardless of whether an error was your fault or not, “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it. And “fauxpologies” just increase your customers’ frustration.

When your staffing firm messes up, what’s the most genuine way to apologize? Here are a few tips for communicating effectively to pave the way for service recovery:

Related post: When Things Go Wrong, Be a Window – Not a Door

  • Be an active listener. Use your listening and probing skills to diagnose the entire problem before apologizing:
    • Ask your client to share the details. (Often, just knowing that you’re truly listening will deescalate the client’s frustration level).
    • Once they’ve provided sufficient information, paraphrase their complaint to check for full understanding of the issue.
    • Legitimize your client’s feelings with a statement like: “That must have been frustrating for you.”
  • Don’t “fauxpologize.” Phrases like: “I’m sorry if you are offended,” “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and “Mistakes were made,” may be easier for you to say, but they’re really not apologies. Think through your wording before you speak, and remove any hint of defensiveness from your apology.
  • Take responsibility. What you’re apologizing for may not be your fault – but it’s irrelevant. To the client, you are the face of your staffing or recruiting firm, and the blame has to be placed somewhere. If you’re not the offending party, apologize on behalf of your team.
  • Make no excuses. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” I love that quote! You may have a perfectly reasonable and legitimate reason for what went wrong. And while it’s acceptable to briefly explain what caused the issue, never hide behind an excuse. If there’s a lesson for you and your client to learn from the situation, save it for after you’ve apologized and solved the immediate problem.
  • Start your service recovery process. Once you’ve calmed your customer, it’s time to identify your options and decide on next steps. At each phase of the resolution process, check with your client to be sure that your proposed actions will be acceptable.

Mistakes happen – it’s just part of being in business. So while it’s important to always strive for excellence, it’s just as vital to train your team to handle service issues with empathy, humility and efficiency. Doing so will help you retain more clients and protect your staffing firm’s reputation.

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