Human connection, sincerity, compassion, and empathy are not things we appreciate ONLY from other live human beings in our personal lives.
Businesses have to show it too. These days, they have to show it offline, AND online.
Sometimes I’ll go to various social media sites and look at how a particular business is doing.
Are they engaging with their followers? It’s not just about the content they post, it’s about whether or not they are CONNECTING to the people who’ve bothered to follow them.
First, many businesses are NOT doing a good job of connecting to and engaging with their customers. But they are particularly off-base when it comes to apologies.
Here are a couple mind-boggling examples of what I’ve seen.
Customer says: “That was the worst flight ever!”, and explains that her flight was boarded only to be stuck on the runway for 3 hours, with no announcement or explanation. After they finally took off, it was announced that they did not have soda as an option for beverages.
Business response: Hi (customer), we’re very sorry to hear that you had a negative experience. We’d be happy to look into the delays if you private message us. – Cassie
MY response, and I don’t think I’m being particularly brilliant here: Are you kidding? How much effort would it take for a more real response?
And why does a business insist on using “WE” all the time? If I just messaged you about a negative experience, and you are the one responding, there is no “WE” that is sorry.
You’re someone who works there who’s probably immune to this happening. And clearly, you’re following a script.
Don’t we all know when we hear a script? It used to be on the phone. Now it’s online. How do we know?
Because we can tell when we hear insincerity. That’s the simplest answer.
Use “I” or use the name of the company. As in, “Great customer service is something that ABCJet takes very seriously, and I’m (the rep) so sorry because I can only imagine how upsetting that had to have been. I’d be happy to help you. Would you please private message us, so we can start a conversation about those delays and figure out what we might to do to help”
Such a response:
- Implies that the company appreciates feedback so they can do better because “they take customer service seriously”.
- It validates the fact that the experience sucked: ” I can only imagine how upsetting that had to have been”. This is real person stuff. Empathy. Validation. Not a script.
- Also, I’m stating that I will be happy to help WITHOUT the conditional “IF”.
Understand the subtle difference. Let’s look at the bad response again and what one reads between the lines.
We’d be happy to look into the delays but ONLY IF you will private message us (conditional, balls in your court, otherwise we don’t really care).
I will be happy to help you. Would you help me help you? Will you please private message us because that’s how I can best help you (We know it’s not convenient, but we really do want to help you and we will figure this out)
Here’s another situation.
Customer complains about terrible service at a restaurant, and lays out what most definitely seems to be poor service.
Business response: We’re sorry the service you received left much to be desired. Feel free to private message us to let us know if we can be of further assistance.
A real response, with a desire to connect to this person and truly make them feel heard would be:
“Hi (customer). I’m really sorry you didn’t get the service you rightfully expected from (establishment). Thanks for letting us know because we do want to do better. Please private message us if you are up to having a more in depth conversation about this incident.
This shows, again, appreciation for feedback. It also implies “we need your feedback” by asking for the private message “if you are up to it”, as in, an acknowledgment that it might be an inconvenience, but we want to make this right.
Rather than than “we’re saying you can private message us because that’s what we’re supposed to say, but we hope we’ve made it clear that we really don’t care, and that you’ll realize it won’t be worth your time anyways”.
I know what some will say.
Who’s going to take the time? Will people hired for customer service have the skills to craft thoughtful responses? Can we expect that from them, and what if they screw up?
Well, they should have the skills. If they don’t they can be trained. The scripted non apologies are likely more detrimental to a business than a rep here and there not getting it perfectly.
Just remember, a little empathy goes a long way. And connection is simply saying ” I hear you, and see you”.
Scripts don’t say that.
An apology, a “sorry” is a lot more effective when it sounds more like a person than a distant entity, and when it validates the grievance. Even if a claim has to be explored, validating someone’s frustration or feelings doesn’t take much.