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Sorry: Easy To Say, Not So Easy To Do

The assistant serving at the counter apologised for the long wait, then for not having received the order and finally for having no change. The cycle continued with every customer she served. There was a sorry for the wrong order given and one for the fact that the croissants hadn’t arrived that morning. And with each one her shoulders drooped a little more, along with the smile she tried to wear. Her job was to be the face of a million dollar small business and it was obviously no fun.

It’s become easier than ever to say sorry now that we can do it in public.
An email fired off in seconds. A 140 character public contrition on Twitter and you’re done.
“We’re sorry. We try, we don’t always get it right.”

Businesses have teams of people who can respond to complaints and fewer who are held accountable for fixing things. Sorry in isolation does not constitute an apology. Every apology has two parts. The admission that something went wrong, followed by the action taken that will mean it doesn’t happen again.

So when the Telco apologises for interrupting customers at the weekend. The apology must be more than an admission. Part two involves changing something so that it doesn’t happen again.

When the airline cancels flights, says sorry, then tells passengers to rebook themselves on the next available, the refund shouldn’t take fifteen uncertain business days to process.

When you or your staff start and end the day by apologising to every single customer it’s time to look at what isn’t working and to fix it. We need to understand why people were unhappy, where we went wrong and then to follow through, showing them that we’re sorry by doing better next time.

A sorry doesn’t help or excuse your business unless you back it up. Being sorry means doing something to make things better. Saying sorry should mean that you care enough to do that.
Your brand story is always less about what you say and more about what you do.

Image by Marc Thiele.