I’m sorry

[Cache – #25]

Something shocking happened last week.  A brand said sorry and actually meant it.

How many times have you been inconvenienced, only to be told something like: “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused”? Like the company that manages my building, in which one or more of the elevators is regularly out of service. Does the building manager seriously think that I “may” have been inconvenienced?  I most definitely “have” been inconvenienced, and it would be refreshing if someone would actually fess up and acknowledge it.

I’m not holding my breath for my building’s mea culpa.  But it was a groundbreaking moment last week in the Toronto subway (aka the TTC) when trains were delayed and the loudspeakers announced: “We apologize for the inconvenience.”  Incredible: a no-BS admission that yes – customers have been put out, yes – it is our fault, and yes – we are sorry for it.

It could be that the TTC’s uncommon honesty is related to their recent hiring of a customer relations czar (http://alturl.com/8ro6p), whose resume includes London’s Tube.  No matter the source, it is nice to finally see some alignment with the TTC’s self-description as The Better Way, which is, for the most part, a crock.

From my days at the front desk of the Fairmont Royal York, I know that oddly, there is no way to make a customer happier than to inconvenience them – and then go over-the-to to make it right.  While I am definitely not recommending that you purposely inconvenience your customers, honesty is the best policy:  when you make a mistake, admit it both to yourself and to your customer.

But here is the biggest problem:  there are many organizations, from the self-employed consultant to the largest multinational, who think they never make substantive mistakes, who think they never owe their customers a real apology.  To them I say I’m sorry – you’re wrong.

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