Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Apologize With Grace

(Today’s post is for the letter A in the A-Z challenge.)

Recently I had some awful experiences with customer service. After thinking about what could have been done differently, I realized that we don’t really teach our students how to apologize. We expect them to apologize when they do wrong and I’m sure that as small children, they learned to say they were sorry. But as adults, customers expect a little more than those simple two words.

We called this gutter company for a sales person to come out and give us an estimate. He called and arranged to come out at 1pm the next day. He finally showed up at 1:30 but never called to say he was running late or even apologized for being late. Then he rambled on about things we weren’t  interested in as well as trying to show a video of how gutters were made that we didn’t want to see. I think that I was feeling so ticked off at him before he arrived that his whole sales pitch was wasted. If he couldn’t be punctual or even apologize for our inconvenience, I knew we wouldn’t be doing any business with him. (Plus his estimate was $4000 higher than the previous guy!)

Then this week, I needed my treadmill repaired. Since we have a four year maintenance contract with Nordic Track, I called them to send someone out. They said they would and ordered some parts that they thought would be needed. This man calls us about 3 days later and asks if the parts are in. When told no, he said he would call next week but he never did. Two weeks later I finally had to call the company to ask them to send someone out again. Finally he calls me back and says it would be a week before he could come out but we arranged for him to come at 7pm. He doesn’t arrive until 7:30, but like the gutter man, no call to say he is running late or any apology for being late!

Now the last situation that happened was in a restaurant. We usually get the same meal at this restaurant and the entrée usually comes out before we finish our salad. Well, this day, we got our salad and never got our drinks until I had to flag our server down. Then 15 minutes after we were finished with our salads, the server glances at us and asks, “You didn’t get your meals yet?” After checking in the kitchen, she returns and asks me, “Are you sure you didn’t get your meal?” What?! Of course I’m sure! Did she think I threw the dirty plates and silverware in my purse? I assured her that we did not get our food. Then she goes in the kitchen and comes back with the apology and says, “I’m so sorry. It is the kitchen’s fault. They stamped the ticket saying you got the food. I don’t know where it went. Someone must have gotten the wrong dish. It really isn’t my fault. It’s the kitchen’s fault!” and on and on and on. Eventually the manager did give us one of our meals for free (which we didn’t ask for).

Now in each of these cases, the apology (or no apology) stunk! It made me realize that even though I have stressed good customer service to my students, I had never really taught them how to apologize gracefully.
Here are some tips that I would give my students:

If you are going to be late, call at least 10 minutes before your expected arrival and let the customer know you will be late and your expected time of arrival. Ask if this will be okay or if your appointment needs to be rescheduled. Do not give long winded excuses about why you are running late because the customer is not interested.

If a problem occurs, apologize for the problem. Do not blame other people or give long winded excuses about why the problem occurred. Apologize and then explain how you will fix the problem. That is what customers want to hear.

I would have students role play different situations where they would need to do this. Some students might suggest other customer situations to role play where an apology is needed.

I think by learning how to apologize with grace will help students be more successful with customer service.
Do you teach students how to apologize? If so, what do you teach them and how?

Image: 'Sorry!'

No comments: