Cooking up an Apology

It’s happened to all of us in both our personal and professional lives. We make a mistake and need to apologize. It should be easy; just two simple words, “I’m sorry”. But it’s not easy and offering a sincere apology seems to be a bit of a lost art.

In the business world, mistakes can actually be an opportunity to solidify and build your customer relationships. It gives you another chance to fix a customer’s problem, retain their loyalty and even increase their satisfaction. 

A word of caution: If you make a mistake that has the potential to turn into a legal matter (e.g.: you failed to deliver on a contract), consult with your attorney before you apologize. That’s because in some states, courts can treat “I’m sorry” as “I’m guilty”.

An effective apology can turn a bad experience into a memorable customer experience – and one that your customers will share with others.

On the flip side, if you are going to offer a half-baked or insincere apology, don’t bother! You are likely to do even more damage than if you didn’t apologize at all.

An example of an ineffective apology is AT&T’s recent YouTube video that attempted to address their customers’ discontent over network problems and the lack of MMS availability.

For all its slick production, the video had one large, gaping oversight – the absence of those two magic words “I’m sorry”.

Instead of winning their customers over, it backfired. Almost 800 people posted a comment to their video – the majority of these comments were negative. The reaction of my friends and colleagues (who watched the video) was similarly negative.

In honor of AT&T, I have concocted the following recipe.

Recipe for a Half-Baked Apology


–          Preheat oven with negative public opinion

–          Grease the pan with a known service problem

Ingredients & Assembly:

–          Pinch of Public Relations

–          1 Heaping tablespoon of condescending attitude

–          Whip in a good dollop of customer frustration

–          Blend in needless charts & graphs

–          Pour in 2 cups of insincerity

–          Fold in 1 pound of lame excuses

–          Skim off any semblance of responsibility

–          Garnish (optional) with self-congratulatory smugness

Baking & Cooling:

–          Half-Bake so customer discontent oozes out

–          Let stand until customer loyalty goes stale

For those of you who want to see the AT&T video for yourself, here it is – enjoy!

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2 Responses to “Cooking up an Apology”

  1. Linda Says:

    As a long suffering AT&T customer, I wish they would treat us better. Can’t wait until the iPhone is available on another carrier because I will switch so fast, their head will spin. Nice post!

  2. servicerox Says:

    Agreed – if not for AT&T, I would be an iPhone user but I will not switch over from Verizon. So I wait..and hope… that one day Verizon gets to carry the iPhone.

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