6 Tips for Making an Apology

Nov 27, 2012

As the owner of a small business, if mistakes were made and a customer is unhappy, it’s up to you to take the blame, work to correct the situation and apologize for the sake of the relationship with that customer and your shop’s reputation.

“An effective executive apology can influence others, mitigate damage and maybe even bolster your credibility in the long run,” Connie Dieken wrote in a recent Huffington Post article. “The trick is to understand the art of the apology and follow the right steps.”

Dieken offered these three suggestions for making amends with a customer.

Own your mess. “In today’s Internet age, the knives come out quickly so get out in front with your mea culpa as soon as possible,” she wrote. “You know your competitors are salivating to capitalize on your misstep. If you fail to act swiftly, you’ll hand competitors an open invitation to take charge.”

Zero in on the hot button. “Openly take responsibility for your customers’ satisfaction,” Dieken wrote. “Focus specifically on what’s bugging them the most or they’ll be convinced that you’re out of touch or insensitive.”

State the solution. “If there’s a remedy to your transgression, share exactly how you’re going to make it right,” she wrote. “Stay out front until it’s solved.” Dieken also offered these three tips for apologizing to someone within your business.

Don’t blame the victim. “Don’t begin with, ‘If I offended anybody…’ that sounds like you’re blaming a resentful person for being overly sensitive to remarks that you feel you obviously didn’t intend as an affront,” she wrote. “Instead, take responsibility. Say something like, ‘I offended you -and I’m sorry.'”

Don’t inflict wounds. “Ridiculous qualifying words like, ‘No offense, but …’ and ‘Don’t take this personally, but …’ are passive-aggressive,” Dieken wrote. “What you’re about to say is personal and yes, it’s likely to offend. So instead of qualifying your contrition, be honest and get to the point kindly but decisively.”

Don’t over-apologize for a small act. “Dripping with contrition for a minor issue can damage your credibility,” she wrote. “One sincere, ‘I was wrong about _____ and I apologize.’ can mend a small mistake. Think of this like antibiotics-apologies become ineffective with misuse.”

To read the complete Huffington Post article, click here.