What a remarkable marketing reminder for all of us.
We're going to mess up with a client, prospect or employee. It's inevitable. Whether it was the result of a bad but conscious choice or human error — for this conversation, is irrelevant. Let's just nod and agree, sooner or later, we're going to screw up.
Now we can write or verbally deliver the most eloquent apology known to man, but that alone doesn't cut it. Words are lovely but you know what they're waiting for….a behavioral apology.
Otherwise, it was just gratuitous lip service. (Which by the way, only compounds the problem!)
What do I mean by a behavioral apology? It can come in several forms but basically, they want to be able to trust you again. Being sorry is swell but what they really want is to know it won't happen again. After all, isn't that the implied promise in any apology. Not only are you sorry about what you did…but that you're also going to fix it and prevent a repeat occurrence?
So there's the real marketing (and perhaps human) challenge. How do we genuinely demonstrate our apology and our pledge that we'll do all that we can to prevent it from happening again?
Change a policy/process: If something in the way you do business caused the problem — then why not learn from the mistake and make an adjustment. The key here is communicating back to the disgruntled customer that their experience triggered an internal audit and based on what you learned — you've made a change.
Fix it x 2: You delivered the flowers to the wrong address or on the wrong day? Don't just re-send what they ordered — up the ante. If they ordered a dozen roses, deliver two. Or offer to correct the problem now with an accurate delivery AND say you'll deliver a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day to the person of their choice. This is about going above and beyond so get creative.
Follow up: After you've made good on whatever your mistake was — pick up the phone or drop by their office. Demonstrate that days/weeks later — you are still concerned about having done them wrong.
Thank them: I know it sounds weird but it's good manners. You might thank them for helping you discover a flaw in your process. Or you might thank them for their patience in letting you work out the proper solution. You might say thank you for how they handled their complaint (no yelling, biting or kicking) or that they gave you a second chance.
While the reason for doing any of these is to truly impress upon the other person that our apology wasn't just fluff, it shouldn't go unsaid that when you craft a meaningful behavioral apology — you can also generate remarkable buzz and good will.
Our clients and employees will forgive our humanness and mistakes but they will celebrate and talk about our heroics when we rise to the occasion and craft a behavioral apology of note.