Apologizing the Right Way

Ever run into the situation where you screwed up, and created an issue for a customer? Well, maybe you never have, but others certainly have, including yours truly. What to do? Should you act like it never happened, and hope that time heals and forgets? Or should you bring it out in the open, risking it getting bigger than you want it to?

The answer is, it depends, but it’s somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. In any case, you shouldn’t act like it never happened, because if you caused it, the customer is bound to point that out to you sometime. And if you didn’t take care of it first, he could think you’re trying to cover it up. That customer will start telling other folks, who might have been thinking of becoming your customers, too, until they heard from the unhappy one.

So if you’re in the (unlikely) event where you caused a mess for a customer, here are 3 things to do, in the form of 3 “A’s”.

  1. Acknowledge it. A simple statement will do, like “I realize I misspoke during our last conversation, and didn’t mean to say what I did.”
  2. Apologize for it. Again, keeping it simple, as in “I regret that, and apologize for being out of line.”
  3. Ask what you can do. “I hope I didn’t cause any undue harm. What can I do to rectify this?”

Then just do it, assuming it’s a reasonable request. Make it right, then move on. Don’t pine over what happened, or seek forgiveness. Even the best and most successful people make mistakes. A professional apology quickly delivered can help both of you move on and let time help the healing.

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