As a business owner, how do you say “I’m Sorry”?
When a client comes to you with something you’ve made (or serviced them with) that they feel is inadequate, how do you respond?
Here’s the thing…
A TRUE apology needs to accept full responsibility. There should be NO justification for what happened. (This is when someone tries to justify the misunderstanding or error. “I’m sorry that you didn’t understand.”) And, to best service the customer, the next step is working towards a solution.
- I am sooooo sorry.
- I’m responsible.
- I will take care of this.
- This is really frustrating. Let’s solve the problem.
Here’s the other thing…
Most people don’t want conflict. (*most* – not all) So, when they buy something that is faulty or are serviced inadequately, they want solution. Saving the relationship is critical which is why you have to accept full responsibility. Moving towards the solution is going to help both parties feel at peace.
This is NECESSARY even when you aren’t wrong. Even if you know you’re right… assuming you want to preserve the relationship and your sanity… and assuming you want to move forward, a true apology is a must.
When you’re not wrong…
You have a choice to make. It’s simple:
- Is it worth the relationship to work this out?
With a client relationship, I find that it’s worth working out 99% of the time, even if they are wrong.
Even if you are NOT in the wrong, you make it need to take charge. You are in control of this situation. Man up!
About taking responsibility…
Here’s an example of something that happened to me a few years ago with a wedding invitation client…
The client placed her order, reviewed everything, signed off on the proof (which specified flat printing.) When she received the order, she was so disappointed because she thought it was going to have thermography printing.
Needless to say, when she phoned me I knew this was going to be a challenge and I got a lump in my throat. The client clearly approved something. She was so unhappy about it, I knew I needed to take responsibility and not with a weak apology.
“I am soooo sorry. I did review the contract and you signed for flat printing. HOWEVER, I accept full responsibility for this. I know this is not what you expected from us. I do remember you talking about thermography printing. I want to solve this for you. This is what we can do…”
I reprinted the order and charged her a little more than my cost. Sure – I didn’t make much money on this job. But, I salvaged the relationship. And, when reputation in this industry is based on relationships, this was worth the cost of reprinting the order.
Taking responsibility means that you are in charge. You have an opportunity to make a bad thing better. How are you going to do it?
And here’s another thing…
It opened my eyes. I realized that my proof/contract process was confusing to some people. I reworked it – and made sure that there was an initial next to each section ensuring that people would read every detail much closer. I could have been stubborn with this client and said “Whoops – this is your fault. The proof was clearly signed by you.” But, by softening my defenses, not only was I able to salvage this relationship, I was able to improve as a business owner. Change is good.
Has this happened to you? When have you had to say “I’m Sorry” to a client? How did it go? Share with us in a comment below.
PS – I just want to make it clear… this isn’t about being walked on by your clients. If this sort of thing happens a lot, you should revisit our posts on client management.