The value of an apology.

30 09 2009


The apology. At least for me, I always know in my gut when it must be said – but why is it so hard?

It’s a given that people make mistakes, nobody’s perfect. Sometimes things happen that shouldn’t. And in business, at some point, something is likely to go wrong in the face of a customer. But while most business strategies focus on avoiding these mistakes, a successful business should also consider a strategy for turning a negative into a positive. A sincere and meaningful apology in a business setting can be a powerful tool to build stronger relationships. A tool that can also be used to improve any unfounded missteps in business operations and to help build a powerful workplace business culture.

“Experts say that companies willing to admit mistakes may uncover and fix problems that otherwise might have continued to fester, and avoid the stress and lost productivity that come when workers focus on covering up mistakes and misdeeds rather than achieving business objectives.”

New research shows that a business is likely to get more customer satisfaction by simply apologizing, versus attempting to make financial compensation. It has also been found that people are more than twice as likely to forgive a company that says “sorry” than one that instead offers them cash. Thus, the simple act of apologizing actually hits your bottom line. And it has been noted that apologies do influence customer behavior (triggering an instinct to forgive) – relative to the offering of cash.

I came across Fast Company’s “30 Second MBA” site and noticed their week long discussion entitled, “What is the business case for generosity?” Each person speaking about generosity a part of a business brings up great points. From instilling collaboration, to balancing your missionary v. mercenary positions, to creating the basis by which you do business, each 30 second video highlights the influence of “being human.”

Being human is hard to systematize. But isn’t it nice to recognize that humans stand behind the outward facade of a business? Whether you determine generosity to be an investment or an apology to be a tool to build relationships, either way your business will gain a personality of its own – one that customers can identify with and create loyalties toward.

Photo courtesy of The Negotiation Law Blog.



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