I saw this recent article about CEOs apologizing for mistakes. It’s a long article filled with solid information about delivering an effective apology. The article also gives rise to the question…if you didn’t make a mistake, should you apologize? I know some people would say yes.
But, have you ever been in a situation where someone has apologized and didn’t mean it? False apologies really bug me. Even no apology is better than a fake one.
I can’t help but wonder if some people are so quick to blurt out the words “I’m sorry” these days that they don’t even know what it means anymore. Has “I’m sorry” become the new corporate customer service program? Granted, if you make a mistake, you should say “I’m sorry.” But, if you didn’t make a mistake, then is an apology really appropriate?
When I’m faced with a situation that sucks…instead of apologizing, I try empathizing. Put myself in the other person’s shoes. Here’s an example I think we can all relate to:
You’re just arriving at work and the phone rings. When you answer it, the person on the other end says: “What’s going on over there? Don’t you people answer the phone? I’ve been trying to call you for hours!”
Now, could we just say “sorry ’bout that” and get on with the conversation? Sure. But let’s face it…that does sound a bit lame. Another option is to connect with the person and calm their frustration by saying, “I know how frustrating that is so thanks for the calling back. How can I help you?” IMHO, that shows understanding and appreciation for the caller.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m not anti-apology. But “I’m sorry” is not a substitute for delivering good customer service. It’s important to use the word “sorry” in the right context. Or you’ll be sorry when that customer is gone for good.