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HomeEVERYDAY ETIQUETTEHow to say ‘sorry’ to a customer

How to say ‘sorry’ to a customer


Do you know how to say ‘sorry’? As our A-Z of Modern Manners highlights, the British are particularly bad for near-compulsive apologising: saying ‘sorry’ when someone has barged into you.

It’s a different story in business, however. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen more and more companies offering a ‘nonpology’: where blame is passed and the word ‘sorry’ doesn’t feature once. (Think United Airlines’ CEO who, only after a leaked email surfaced, actually said ‘sorry’. Coming two days after the initial ‘nonpology’, his mea culpa was rendered useless.

So, how should you apologise to a customer in a professional way? Here are our top tips:

  • Pick up the phone. Taking the time call makes your apology all the more sincere. Try to keep your tone of voice level and unemotional.
  • Acknowledge the error and try to explain why it occurred and the context surrounding it. Whatever you do, don’t pass the buck.
  • Tell them how you’re going to resolve the issue. Be it a replacement or refund, make sure whatever you offer them is significant so that they don’t come away feeling even more annoyed at having received a discount voucher.
  • Implement this resolution swiftly and efficiently, and keep the customer informed throughout the process.
  • If somebody becomes aggressive or abusive, politely thank them for their feedback and draw the conversation to a close. There’s no need to engage with bullying behaviour.

And finally, BREATHE. We take short, sharp intakes of breath when we are stressed. By consciously breathing deeply we allow more oxygen into the system that helps to reduce our stress levels and keep a cool head. We hope that now you know how to say ‘sorry’ to a customer and how to defuse the situation.

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