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Why & How Should Companies Apologize To Customers For Their Goof-ups

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“To err is human”. All of us know. And that marks the end of it for many. Probably someone should’ve rephrased it to “to err is human, to seek forgiveness is divine!

There’s no business that’s perfectly functioning without causing disappointment to it’s customers. Small or large, blunders are inevitable in a typical business setup, but how many companies do actually apologize?

In light of the bombed big billion day sale, if there’s anything Flopkart did to become Flipkart again was to say “We are sorry”. The innumerous hassles in placing orders, manipulation of prices, out of stock messages had driven the whole online shopping diaspora angry and cheated. But the big public apology, if anything, made the public empatheticand sure Flipkart’s regaining of trust will take a little more time, but people don’t mind giving it another chance.

Sorry

When do mistakes usually happen?

When startups do exceedingly well and reach the 100 crore sale mark, the inevitable happens. They love themselves and complacency prevails! (Read: Robin Sharma article : point 2 success). Success is a scary phase that puts you in a comfort zone and numbs your brain to those instincts that got you there in the first place. This is when mistakes happen.

Why should businesses learn to apologize?

When someone does something, that gives you a sense of discomfort and disappointment, you can’t deny, a simple apology will put your anger at ease. Forget “compensating” or “making it up to you”, just the plain words put off the fire.

If you have a dedicated team for dealing with customers, then you already know customer relationships are the most valued asset to the company. So when your customers are dissatisfied, angry or upset with your services/products, you need to accept and apologize. Just because you can’t see the pain, you can’t deny it’s existence! So empathy is the best way of understanding your customer’s concerns and saying the word “sorry” might help you get into the customer’s good books

How to apologize?

Well just exactly how you would to a friend, relative, acquaintance etc except that your words must be formal yet touching.

For example: “It’s not you, it’s us. We appear to have done something to knock ____.com offline. We are working to resolve it. Meanwhile hang around because you are valuable to us

Flipkart’s sorry statement: “Yesterday was a big day for us. And we really wanted it to be a great day for you. But at the end of the day, we know that your experience was less than pleasant. We did not live up to the promises we made and for that we are really and truly sorry, Delighting you, and every single one of our customers, is absolutely the top most priority for Flipkart and we have worked very hard over the last seven years to earn your trust. Yesterday, we failed that trust. We have learnt some valuable lessons from this and have started working doubly hard to address all the issues that cropped up during this sale.”

A lengthy one, but note how Flipkart has addressed all the issues in it’s official apology. This move was deeply appreciated by many.

There have been many reputed companies in the past who’ve had the courage to come out in light and say “We’re sorry”.

In 2013, Pepsico apologized for a racist mountain dew ad where the culprits all shown were black and aired the heaviest accented slurs. “This ad has to be one of the most irresponsible pieces of trash in the history of corporate advertising.”, said a person. Pepsico issued a public apology and this ad was taken off the air. You can check out the Ad.

Also noted US company JC Penney had ushered itself into a Ron Johnson phase wherein the company compromised on its brand and started selling low quality stuff. For people who grew up in the US, JC Penney is more than a household brand. Viewing the fall in it’s customer count, JC Penney then fired the brainchild of these ideas, the then CEO Ron Johnson. “It’s no secret, recently JC Penney changed. Some changes you liked and some you didn’t, but what matters from mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing, to listen to you.” was there official apology.

Even Tim Cook apologized to the Apple customer base on the failure of the map app that sometimes gave the wrong directions. Companies like Coca cola, Barclays, NOTW etc have made it a point to do a little damage control because they have now realized customers are in fact the only community that matters to a thriving business.

Warren Buffet expresses this point brilliantly when he says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

  1. Vaishnavi says

    Hey Senior citizens of Bengaluru,
    Yes, what you said makes absolute sense. As you said, lets hope the new generation sets the track for right doing! :)
    Vaishnavi

  2. Why should companies apologise is really good and appropriate one.But our Indian companies and business
    tycoons are egoistic..they believe that whatever they do is always right.Many investors in Mantri Developers Bangalore(Serenity project @Kanakapura Road) held up since years after collecting full amount as pre-launch offer.Even interest as promised for customers are delayed and left in lurch.People are put into extreme difficulties and helpless since no politician worth his greatness is bothered to sort out/intervene.
    Mantri’s are known to have lo of clouts in Govt/politics and they get AWARDS for everything !So they are doing what they feel is right and they don’t apologize.Who will tell them to apologize and start up the held up constriuction activities?

    1. Vaishnavi says

      Hey Senior citizens of Bengaluru & India,

      Firstly thanks for appreciating this article. As you rightly said, many indian companies don’t really see the importance of treating a customer right and in turn they are the losers. The bad word of mouth publicity will eventually hit them hard. As for the awards, no award is bigger than customer satisfaction, when you lose it, you really need “unheard” of awards to claim your quality to keep people coming to you.
      But there’s light at the end of the tunnel, the new era of entrepreneurs like the Bansal brothers and the like have woken up from their slumber.
      That’s the good news!

      Vaishnavi,
      Writer

      1. Hi Vaishnavi, thanks for your response and appreciation.In our country for every wrong doing there are people who support and even shout !But they don’t at all understand that WRONG DOING is to be set right or there are ways to do it right.Our leaders are patrons of these wrong doers or shall we call them BADDIES.It is all a gimmick of any politician who says that he will set right things soon and nothing improves …or atleast for the time being…it may take years for improvement.Let us hope for the best

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