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Just say "I'm Sorry": Three Easy Steps to a Proper Public Apology

10.04.11

In business, you are not defined by the number of mistakes you make, but rather how you respond to them. The most important aspect of crisis management is retaining the trust of your clients and customers.  By following these simple steps however, maintaining these relationships, and your reputation, after a public relations crisis might be easier than it seems.

1. Don't just throw money at the problem.

Your first instinct may be to offer free products or services to a client after a miss-step...but think again. Studies show that consumers respond more positively to a simple apology than compensation. Customers want to be treated like adults, and won't be placated by only a few handouts. A sincere apology shows respect for one's humanity, and people have been shown to respond more positively to this approach.

2. Craft a sincere apology, and deliver it in person.

A sincere and well stated apology is usually comprised of several parts: Apologize outright, explain what happened and why, acknowledge the customer's grievance, state what steps you're taking to correct the problem, then ask for forgiveness. Your apology must be delivered by a high ranking company official to be perceived as genuine. An email blast or tweet from the company account will not suffice. Netflix is an example of a company that is doing a good job backtracking on a recent blunder without severing long term customer relationships.

3.  Give customers a chance to have a dialogue.

After you've communicated your apology, make sure clients have a way to offer feedback on the situation and how you're handling it. Social media is a great platform for connecting and conversing with customers. Resist the urge to censor negative comments about your company. Nestle did this in a crisis management situation before, and it served only to make customers more upset and prolong the crisis. Remember that communication is a two way street; you must respond to customers comments. Listening and responding demonstrates that you respect you clients and their views, and will help them to respect you in-turn, even if you're on the wrong end of a mix-up.

Written by AdvantEdge Staff

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