4imprint, LLC

For every unhappy customer who comes forward to complain about a negative experience with your company, there are 26 equally unhappy customers who will remain silent. What’s more, 82 percent of customers have stopped doing business with a company after having a bad customer service experience. Mistakes happen, but how they are handled can make or break client relationships.

Learning to make business apologies can make a difference. Here are the six R’s to right your wrongs:

  1. Regret: Always start your apology with an expression of regret, such as “I’m sorry this happened” or “I wish we would’ve handled things differently.”
  2. Reason: Offer a reason (not an excuse) for the mishap. Research the mistake to determine how it happened, how you will handle it going forward and how you can prevent it from happening again. Be sure to share this information with your client.
  3. Responsibility: When it comes to successful business apologies, accepting responsibility is important. In his study, Roy Lewicki, professor emeritus of management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, found it is key to having your apology accepted.
  4. Repent: When you apologize, make sure you mean it. Take action to ensure a similar mistake doesn’t happen again by changing actions, policies or practices. Be sure to share those changes with your customer.
  5. Repair: Repairing the damage your mistake caused is the second most important part of a business apology. Offer to pay for any damages and then give a small gift, such as a Post-it® discount coupon good toward a future purchase accompanied by a handwritten note. Or consider sending something bigger—a premium pen set, LeathermanTM tool or wine opener, for example.
  6. Request forgiveness: The last step is to ask for forgiveness. Do so sincerely and swiftly.

When it comes to how to apologize in business, actions speak louder than your words. Follow these six steps, and you’ll be on your way to rebuilding your customer relationships.


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