The Power of Apologizing to Customers


If you're reading this, you're a human being. A person with feelings, thoughts, joys, passions, fears, etc. All companies are made up of humans; people just like you and I. Sure, you can automate much of what a company does, you can hide it behind buildings and legal terms and conditions. You can even use technology instead of people to make them more efficient, effective, and easier to manage. But, deep down, every company is comprised of people.

If you're reading this, you're also a "customer." The word is not as exciting as "people" because none of us want to be seen as mere "buyers" of things. Still, we are all customers because... we buy things.

So if we're all humans and we're all customers, companies could act a bit more like people, right? And they could see all customers a bit more like, well, people. Humanizing a company or brand is not making it less powerful; it's simply realizing that without the human beings working there and without the human beings purchasing things/services, such company would not be much more than a bunch of tangible and intangible things that would eventually rot.

I bring this up because the rise of the Internet and real-time conversations have forced many companies to be much more human, and that's a good thing. Still, companies need to WANT to be more human. The power of apologizing is one example of how a company can be more human.

Apologizing does at least four things: First, it acknowledges the harm done. Second, it shows your humility and expresses respect and appreciation. Third, it opens up the door for forgiveness. And finally, it provides the opportunity to change.

Companies make mistakes. Just like customers need to better understand that companies are not perfect, companies need to understand that such imperfection needs to be acknowledged. Mistakes can be hidden and ignored, but sooner or later, someone will point them out.

So the acknowledgement of mistakes is a good start, but it should not be the final outcome. Impressions, visits, rankings, awards, or even sales, I'm afraid, should not be the end either. The end should be a new beginning: Learning from mistakes and actually doing something about them reduces the likelihood of making mistakes in the first place.

People will forgive companies for their wrongdoings. They really will. But just as when a person does you wrong, we all tend to forgive more often and more fully when there is an apology. And more importantly, as with all relationships, change is required for the relationship to truly be strengthened.

Sure, anyone can market the idea of change, but I'm not talking about self-promotion, PR or TV commercials showing off how sorry you are. I'm talking about saying sorry, in private and/or in public, and then doing something to change the root cause, even if it starts with baby steps.

Being in a field (social media + marketing) where people constantly demand perfection from you and often point out the imperfections of your company (and your own), it is often easy to get a bit thick skinned. And that thick skin is good to have at times because it is not always easy to take it all in. The fact is that there are some people that simply like to complain and they will never be satisfied.

But, having a permanent thick skin shows what you truly have: indifference. Having an real DESIRE to recognize mistakes, apologize (in real-time if possible), learn from what happened, and become better (as soon as possible) shows that you CARE. Caring beats indifference every single time.

No matter what you do for a living, make sure you care about the people you interact with and that you apologize when you have to. You may not always be able to apologize or you may not be allowed to do so, but make sure you care deep down.

As long as you care, you will be able to build strong relationships, and you will be able to make yourself and your company better. Never settle for what you are right now, and never settle for how you've done things in the past. You can always be better and you can always try harder.

Care more, try harder, and say sorry when you've realized you haven't cared or tried enough. The rest may be out of your control, but you will definitely see the fruits of genuinely apologizing to your customers, apologizing to your fans, apologizing to your followers, apologizing to your enemies, apologizing to your frienemies, apologizing to your friends, apologizing to your family, and apologizing to yourself.

Saying sorry is not a weakness; it is much more powerful than you think.

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.