How to Say “I’m Sorry” to Your Small Business Customers

small business apology

Small business owners may be a lot of things, but “infallible” isn’t one of them. A product meant to be shipped to Salem, Oregon, ends up in Salem, Massachusetts. A service tech gets lost on the way to a job and arrives an hour late. An attempt at humor in a tweet or Facebook post is taken the wrong way and your fan base is less than thrilled.

Mistakes happen — but if they’re not properly (and promptly) addressed, your small business suddenly has a big PR nightmare on its hands. And while sorry may very well be the hardest word, it’s one you need to get used to.

If you’ve goofed, gaffed or simply screwed up, here’s how to say “I’m sorry.”

Own Your Mistake

When you have an angry customer on the line, it’s tempting to do whatever you can to deflect the blame. Don’t. The customer isn’t interested in playing a rousing game of “Pass the Buck” — they just want their problem solved.

As a small business owner, mistakes made by your company are yourmistakes by default, whether or not you actually had a hand in it. Owning up to the issue immediately will save you time and help to calm the customer once they realize you’re on their side.

How to Say “I’m Sorry” the Right Way

Most sincere apologies follow a pretty simple formula. Start with what you’re apologizing for, explain why it was wrong and/or how it affected your customer, and finish up with the steps you’ll take to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“Mrs. Johnson, I apologize for sending you the wrong color jacket for your dog. It must have been frustrating to receive blue when you clearly noted on the order form that Fluffy’s favorite color is yellow! My staff and I will have a conversation this afternoon about the importance of reviewing orders before they’re packaged for shipment.”

Make Things Right

Apologies are great, but even the sincerest “I’m sorry” doesn’t fix the original problem. Now that you’ve owned the mistake and apologized, it’s time to make things right.

For minor mess-ups, it’s typically as easy as issuing a refund, offering a shipping credit, throwing in a few low-dollar freebies or sending out a gift card. Your customer is satisfied, they have more than they originally bargained for and everyone lives happily ever after.

But what if your company has (inadvertently, of course) done a no-good, very bad thing? The napkins you printed for a wedding had the happy couple’s names misspelled. Your landscaper mowed down a customer’s prize-winning roses two days before the national competition. Great Aunt Ethel’s funeral was disrupted when a “Get Well Soon” bouquet, complete with mylar balloons, was delivered instead of the sympathy arrangement the family requested.

In these cases, free shipping on the next order isn’t going to cut it — because if you don’t make it right, the chances of a “next order” are slightly south of zero. The reparations you make should always be in line with the severity of the mistake, no matter what it costs you!

Mistakes Don’t Have to Cost You Customers!

No small business is perfect. From minor mix-ups to egregious errors, we’re all going to make a mistake or two now and again. But that doesn’t mean your customers are lost for good! When you own up to your faults, offer a sincere apology and do what you can to remedy the situation, you can earn a second chance!

Mischa Communications is your source for small business tips, tricks and resources. Check out our blog and, as always, feel free to get in touch for any of your small business needs!