The Hardest Thing to Say

Written By Ann Ashley


The Art of Customer Service

Why is it that, “I’m sorry” seems to be the hardest thing to say?  In a world where the customer is always right, apologies can seem to be a necessary, even daily, evil.  This can be a hard pill for employees to swallow, especially when they don’t feel particularly sorry for a client’s disappointment.  Let’s face facts: your clients come to your organization with a myriad of expectations (some unrealistic), baggage, and cynicism.  Often times, their self-fulfilling prophecy comes to be through no fault of your staff.  So how do you convince your team to utter those two unspeakable words when they may feel that they deserve the apology?

Start by helping your staff see a clear link between your clients’ satisfaction and your business’ bottom line. Your clients are the reason your business exists, so if they aren’t happy with their experience for any reason, you should always be sorry and do what you can to rectify the situation.  Without satisfied customers, there is no business, no pay check, and no jobs.  Of course, there are always exceptions, and pleasing a client should never be done at the expense of your employees’ integrity or well-being.

After experiencing a difficult customer exchange that ends with an apology, allow your employee(s) to come to you and vent so they don’t feel like the customers’ punching bag at the end of the day.  As important as it is to please the customer, it is just as important to retain quality employees.

We all have clients to serve – some internal and others external.  A simple, “I’m sorry” can go a long way in meeting those customers’ needs and expectations, although it often seems the hardest thing to say.  Coach your employees to see the significance of your customers’ satisfaction on the bottom line (including their jobs), and be there when they swallow the toughest of pills to save a client relationship.