The Art Of The Apology In Business
The Art of the Apology in Business
By Mark Wager
Mistakes happen, no matter how much you prepare or how good you are there are going to be times that you will make mistakes. In the business world, mistakes can be crucial and they can prevent you from winning a new contract or even worse, they can lose you an existing one. So, despite all the work you put in to ensure that mistakes don't happen in the first place you also need to be prepared for when they do. In this article I'm going show you how to turn every mistake into a positive event for your business and it's all about learning the art of the apology in business.
Understand the true cost
Before you start it's important to realise the true cost of any mistake. If you are in jeopardy of losing a client you need to be aware of the lifetime cost and not just the immediate cost. By this I mean you need to consider all the future business you will be losing not only from that client but any other potential client who may be put off dealing with you because of what they may have heard from the lost client. Consider how many times you have decided to stay away from a restaurant or a hotel because of something you have heard from somebody or a customer review or comment you have read on-line. If you consider the true cost of losing a client then you will fully appreciate how important it is to deal with the mistake in the right way.
The most powerful words any leader can use are "thank you" and "I'm sorry." Too often people's ego prevents them from doing this. If a mistake occurs regardless of the intent behind the mistake or who caused it the first step a business needs to take is to apologise and say the words "I'm sorry." It is also important to stress what you are sorry for. If the mistake has been obvious then say sorry for what has occurred yet if you believe that your client has contributed to the mistake, let's be honest it's rare that any mistake is 100% down to one individual, then acknowledge the emotion your client is feeling without necessarily agreeing with the emotion. If someone is angry or upset you don't have to agree with their reaction but by acknowledging that the emotion exists you are more likely to connect with your client which will greatly increase the chance of reaching a positive outcome.
Take ownership of the resolution
The one sure way to guarantee losing a client is to focus on making excuses. The focus needs to be on the future. The future business relationship with the client will depend on ensuring the mistake is never repeated and the best way to do this is to take ownership of the situation. Every excuse is like a nail in the coffin of your business. What has happened has already happened and you can't go back in time to fix it so your business should never live in the past. It's the future that of your business that needs to succeed so that is where your focus should be. If it's likely that you may lose a client's business then make sure they know why business with you in the future will be so beneficial for them and what you and your company are going to do to ensure the future will be mistake free.
Create a positive image
Even the best companies in the world make mistakes. The new Apple iPhone has been announced to much positive publicity yet if you look back at every launch there has been numerous technical difficulties with the different versions of the iPhone over the years yet Apple overcame these mistakes and see them as teething problems and at the same time retaining the brand as one of the world's leading companies. If the majority of your clients are happy with your business then make sure that the client who you are potentially going to lose is fully aware of all the reasons why your company is as successful as it is. This means you need to stress to your client why their experience is a rarity and just how rare mistakes actually occur. A mistake may seem a strange time to talk about the positives of your business but trust me it's the perfect time.
Every mistake is an opportunity to win loyalty
If you can master the art of the apology then when a mistake occurs your aim is not to lose a client but instead it becomes how you turn this situation into an opportunity to create future business. A lot of the most loyal clients any business can have are as a result of how a previous mistake was handled. Every relationship requires conflict to resolve issues and progress forwards and relationships in business are no different. You want to avoid mistakes at all cost but they will happen because none of us are perfect but if you can master the art of the apology in business then you can demonstrate to any client why they shouldn't move their business elsewhere and by doing so bring more business to you in the future.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Posted: Monday 24 October 2016