• Business Law, Marketing

    Posted on January 17th, 2011

    Written by Bryan


    If you have been in business for any significant amount of time, you have made a mistake or offended a customer. It happens, and every business owner can share stories of how the mistake impacted his, or her, business. Sometimes the damage is limited to a single customer, but often the damage can spread to other existing and potential customers.

    Yesterday, Groupon issued a first rate apology for a mistake that wasn’t even their fault. CEO Andrew Mason looked directly into the camera and, without any qualifications or wavering, took responsibility for the problem.  Andrew does three things really well, (1) his demeanor and body language is appropriate, (2) he apologizes without qualification, and (3) he describes how he is working to prevent the mistake from happening again. You can watch the video yourself below (2:59).

    As a result of this first rate apology, much of the media coverage (and this blog entry) has shifted from the mistake to the quality of the apology. A fantastic example of how to turn a negative into a positive.

    So, I am going to offer my tips for apologizing to your customers, (although it may also work with your spouse, co-workers, and friends):

    1. Listen. The customer wants to ensure you hear the entirety of their complaint, cutting them off with an apology makes the apology appear calculated and not empathetic.
    2. Body Language. Make eye contact and be be sincere.
    3. The rule of Threes. Apologize at least three times. Apologize, explain what happened, apologize again, explain how you are going to fix it, and apologize again. Now you can ask for forgiveness and their repeat business.
    4. Empathize with the customer. Show that you  understand the impact this mistake had on the customer and their business.
    5. Correct the mistake. Even if you don’t believe you are fault, take affirmative steps to correct the mistake, and make these actions known to the customer. This is an opportunity to improve your business practices, and to create a super-fan out of a disgruntled customer. The customer will see the impact he or she had on your business and be more likely to return to receive the benefit of their efforts to help improve your business.

    I would go so far as to suggest that all management should receive apology training and practice apologizing until they can get it right.

    (Hat tip: TechCrunch)

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