27 April, 2009

I'm sorry.

by M.M. McDermott

Not me, personally. I mean, sure, we haven't posted in a week, but it's been busy as hell around here. And that's a good thing.

Regardless, I'm excited to finally get around to sharing a great PR article. A dude named Peter Bregman nails the psychology of the apology and its ramifications for business. In short: Customers are more willing to forgive if you're willing to ask for it.

There are few verities in this world. One of the surest is that people make mistakes. And companies are full of people. So if my social calculus serves me, companies are full of mistakes. Usually they're pretty small. Usually.

Like an instance of crappy customer service. A missed appointment. Or a botched pizza order:



Amateur, but honest. Unpolished, but undeniably sincere. Now that's the way one business not only fixes a screw-up, but turns it into an opportunity to humanize the company.

Really, that's what it's all about. Accepting that we make mistakes and owning up to them. And I've got four simple suggestions to help. As someone who messes up all the time, I've tried them all, and they work. Unless you've killed someone or pissed away little old ladies' life savings in a Ponzi scheme:

1. You gotta mean it. It's mind boggling how something so commonsensical and morally obvious is botched on a regular basis by major companies. If you mail in your mea culpa, you run the risk of doing more damage than you would doing nothing at all. People are perceptive animals. We can smell the difference between hubris and humbleness.

2. Ditch the rhetoric. Forget the spin and the sizzle. Just come out with it: I was wrong. Say it in plain English (unless you speak a different language). If you need to, use a sock and some bungee cord to gag the lawyers. And for the love of all that's holy, don't turn an apology into a parade of excuses. People generally care more about why you're sorry than why you did it.

3. Make it right. Apologies are nice, but reconciliation is better. Giving away free stuff, cutting a check, or even demonstrating an intense (and expensive) commitment to not making the same mistake again can make a difference. People want to see you suffer a bit because they've suffered. Give them blood.

4. Don't over apologize. It'll start to annoy people. My wife will attest to that. Be sorry, and be done with it. Customers will generally let you know if they expect more.

Now go mess something up and practice.

Also in the Apologies Gone Wild department: A-Roid copyrights "young and stupid."

I'm sorry.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

5 others 'fessed up:

Sterno April 28, 2009 at 1:30 PM  

from the "make it right" department, ask Kobe about that ring he bought his wife...

Make the logo bigger May 3, 2009 at 4:18 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Make the logo bigger May 3, 2009 at 4:47 PM  

I smell tag: “Allow the Wow!

While I love the honesty, I think he overapolgized. (Maybe he should do all their apology vids though.)

But, this is also an example of customer service as public theatre. Forget calling the store and dealing with the problem. Now, it's:

1) I was wronged.

2) I have a blog or Twitter.

3) I am entitiled to bitch about anything.

4) Brands are not allowed to make a mistake in private without me trying to resolve it in private because I will run to my keyboard. (Apparently she found time to finish the second pizza AND hit up Twitter for some public venting.)

5) The brand now has to give me something free because I am entitled, (nevermind that it’s a low-cost item served millions of times a day).

6) This tweet pretty much sums up the times: It’s all about me.

M.M. McDermott May 4, 2009 at 10:19 AM  

BG - I agree to a point. People now have the equivalent of an internet megaphone to broadcast displeasure - no matter how ridiculous, mundane, or retardedly irrelevant it is to the rest of the world.

I will say this though: calling a pizza shot to complain has yielded little in my few experiences except for two hangups from the "manager" and a couple "what do you want me to do about its?" In effect, the shop mopes serve as gatekeepers for complaints leaving you with little choice but to take your business elsewhere.

By taking it to the web, I guess she figured it gave her a better shot of being heard. Granted, it's just an effin' pizza.

Welcome to the narcissistic, self-consumed wonderland that is social media, my friend.

Make the logo bigger May 4, 2009 at 5:37 PM  

Yeah. I agree. Think I may just go and retweet this tho.

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