Last Updated: December 2023
For customer support teams, a typical day at work is almost always a mixed bag of experiences. On one hand, there is the immense satisfaction of helping customers with their issues and being appreciated by them. On the other, they often find themselves at the receiving end of a barrage of complaints from angry or upset customers. However, complaints are nothing to be afraid of. They are the clearest sign that your brand needs to do more to meet customer expectations. Left unaddressed, they can manifest into negative reviews and a sharp drop in CSat scores. Over time, these customers are likely to switch to other companies.
To make up for a bad experience, many businesses try to offer compensation in the form of discounts and fee waivers. The problem is that the cost of these freebies can add up quite quickly if used indiscriminately. However, if you are like most e-commerce stores, you would much rather avoid the extra expense. Fortunately, there is a better alternative that works almost every time and – most importantly – does not cost a thing: an apology!
A study by the cloud CRM platform, SuperOffice indicates that more customers were likely to be satisfied by an apology rather than being compensated. What’s more, an effective apology can also help you avoid bad reviews and stave off potential customer attrition. Pro tip: a written apology signed by the head of customer support or even the CEO can be far more reassuring to a customer than a verbal one from an agent or his immediate supervisor.
Why? It shows customers that you are humble enough to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes. Apology emails may have replaced good ol’ letters in the digital era but they are just as effective at getting the message across.
A word of caution, though: stock apology emails may be efficient but they can do even more damage. They can appear cold or insensitive if they are not specific to the customer’s situation. That is why experts recommend following a few simple steps to ensure a flawless apology email.
Here are 7 guidelines you can follow to create the right impact with apology emails:
1. Acknowledge the problem:
An apology email needs to start with a quick summary of the issue. The customer should realize that you have fully understood the problem on soon as they have read the first few lines of your email. Acknowledge the customer’s frustration, reflecting back on the same words that they used to describe the problem. Here’s how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos chose to describe the pain its customers faced when the company mistakenly sold illegal copies of popular novels.
Notice how Bezos uses words that are emotionally expressive. However, care must be taken to ensure that the overall tone of the email remains professional.
2. Apologize unconditionally:
An apology must be unconditional for it to be effective. The slightest hint of defensiveness and you will have aggravated the customer. Avoid using words that appear to shift the blame on circumstances or other people. For example, using words like “We are sorry about your experience but..” is a halfway house. It suggests that the situation was not really your fault. The urge to start explaining things right away can be strong. However, you must accept responsibility for the problem- regardless of how small it may be and apologize right away. This is the only way to repair a relationship with a customer who may be considering switching to a competitor.
3. Give reasons for the failure:
Once you have apologized, it is time to explain to the customer why the issue occurred in the first place. Here, it is critical to empathizing with the situation before explaining what caused it. For example, if an order arrives late because of an incorrect address, you need to explain clearly whether it was caused because your customer support team had the wrong address or if the delivery company was to blame. Most customers will appreciate your willingness to acknowledge the failure if their concerns are handled objectively.
4. Tell them what is being done to fix the problem:
The future of your relationship with the customer hinges on how well you address this part. Once you have listed the reasons why a problem occurred, immediately describe the actions that you are taking to resolve it. In the example above, let’s assume that the customer’s shipping address was incorrectly recorded. You can use words that convey a sense of urgency. For example, you might say, “We have updated your billing address on our end and have also instructed the delivery company to double-check all shipping information before shipping orders”.
5. Thank them for bringing the problem to your attention and promise to do better:
Customers like to be told that they are valued. Once you have understood where you went wrong in meeting their expectations, all you need to do to renew your relationship with them is thank them and promise to exceed their expectations in the future. According to Retently, only 30% of companies manage to get this aspect of customer service right. Incidentally, it is one of the biggest reasons why customers progressively turn passive and eventually become detractors.
Small businesses can leverage their size to build stronger customer relationships in a way that bigger ones cannot match. They usually know on a first-name basis with their customers. This gives them a good understanding of what customers really want. However, when things do go wrong, small businesses must go out of their way to reach out to customers and resolve their problems.
Since your customer support team is the first point of contact for customers, they must be trained to empathize, analyze, resolve and close customer tickets within a defined timeframe. However, the lack of resources and expertise can prove to be a stumbling block for most small businesses. Helplama is a professional customer support provider that can help you scale your team and provide an outstanding customer experience at an affordable price point. We are easy to work with and do not insist on long-term contracts! What’s more, our Zero-Risk Guarantee offers customers complete peace of mind.
Also, try the Helplama Helpdesk – the customer service software that can help you automate and scale your customer support.