The non-apology apology,which sounds like an apology but doesn’t really accept any blame.For example,”We’re sorry if this upset you”.Or “ I’m sorry that you don’t feel we lived up to your expectations.”
A good apology accepts responsibility.
It has no conditional if phrase attached.It shows people that the buck stops with you.
And then it provides real details about what happened and what you’re doing to prevent it from happening again.
And it seeks a way to make things right.
Here’s another bad one:”We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”Oh,please.
Lets break down why that’s bad:
“…We apologise…..”If you spilled coffee on someone while riding the underground,would you say,”I apologise”?No,you’d say,”I’m so, so sorry!”Well,if your customer service is critical to you customers,an interruption to that service is like spilling hot coffee all over them.So use the appropriate tone and language to show that you understand the severity of what happened.Also the person in charge should take the responsibility.An “I” apology is a lot stronger than a “we” apology.
“……..any inconvenience…..” If customers depend on your service and can’t get to it,It’s not merely an inconvenience.It’s a crisis.An inconvenience is a long line at the supermarket.This isn’t that.
“…….this may have caused”The “may” here implies there might not be anything wrong at all. That’s a classic non-apology apology move.It slights the very real problem(s) that customers are experiencing. If this didn’t affect them,you don’t really need to say anything. If it did affect them,then there’s no need for “may” here.Stop wavering.
So what’s the perfect way to say you’re sorry?There’s no magic answer.Any stock answer will sound generic and hollow.
You’re going to have to take it on a case by -case basis.
The number-one principle to keep in mind when you apologise:How would you feel about the apology if you were on the other end? If someone said those words to you,would you believe them?
Keep in mind that you can’t apologise your way out of being an idiot. Even the best apology won’t rescue you if you haven’t earned people’s trust.Everything you do before things go wrong matters far more than the actual words you use to apologise. If you’ve built rapport with customers,they’ll cut you some slack and trust you when you say you’re sorry.
From Rework: Change the way you work forever.