How to Make an Effective Business Apology
Whether it’s a missed deadline, a flawed product, or a billing error, somebody got injured, and even if the offending party is savvy enough to acknowledge the gaffe, there’s far more to an effective apology than just, “Whoops! Sorry.”
When your turn to beg pardon arrives, here are the five steps to follow in completing an effective apology:
FIRST, OWN THE PROBLEM
This is your bad. Even if it was a representative or underling who blundered, accept responsibility personally. Your customer, client, or creditor trusted you, if not one-on-one then by extension. They took your company’s word that you were going to do what you said you were going to do. They put their faith in you, and they almost certainly made promises to their own customers, clients, or creditors based on what you said. Attempts to lay the blame elsewhere will only make you look irresponsible — which is exactly what you are if you try such a dodge. Step up to the plate. Say: “This is my responsibility. I will handle this personally.” Anything much different from those very words is a cop out. And of course you must follow through on your commitment to personal attention, so be prepared to present your business card and offer your direct phone number to back up your pledge.
SECOND, STATE SPECIFICALLY THAT YOU ARE “SORRY” AND THAT YOU “APOLOGIZE”
Strangely, these two crucial words often get lost or conveniently forgotten during the apology process, as if by uttering them we reveal weakness. But you’ve already acknowledged fault and personally owned up to the problem, so set your ego aside and don’t choke on the words. Your ability to be direct and specific will convince the injured party you understand the gravity of the situation and can empathize with them in the predicament you’ve perpetrated. Take a deep breath, make eye contact, and state clearly: “I’m sorry. I apologize.” That’s not weakness; that’s courage.
THIRD, EXPLAIN IN DETAIL HOW AND WHY THE MISTAKE WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN
You can’t stop after the first two steps. Those are just words — good words, but words nonetheless. Now you must do something. You must ferret out the cause of the mistake and change the policies, procedures, processes and/or people that either caused it or enabled it, and you must then present your analysis and the changes it has effected to the injured party. Was it a computer glitch? If so, replace the system and show off the new equipment. Was it human error? Present the org chart that reveals new lines of authority. One way or another, you’ve got to prove that whatever went wrong once will never, ever go wrong again.
Now you’ve got momentum. Your meaningful words have been fortified with action aimed at the future… but what about the past? Your mistake has...