"I am sorry about ..." (apologies - customer service policy article)


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In this customer service article, Derek Stockley comments on the overuse of apologies as a standard form of customer greeting. The two basic elements of customer service are defined.

Poor customer greetings

"I’m sorry."

"Sorry to keep you waiting."

"Sorry about that."

These statements roll of the tongue easily and frequently. Almost every customer is greeted the same way.

The statements sound insincere. They do not mean anything.

Customer service essentials

Simply put, customer service is about two things:

The customer.

Service.

If the focus is on the customer, greetings and statements should be friendly, but direct. They should not sound insincere.

Secondly, the focus should be on service. If you have to say sorry for keeping a customer waiting, it should be because the delay was unexpected. It should be a rarity. It should be unusual. Delay should not be built in as part of the system.

I criticised the banks (see change management article) when they started their bank closures and rationalisation programs. They caused a great deal of angst by cutting services and creating long queues. They forced people to use alternatives (telephone banking, ATMs, Internet banking, etc.).

Instead of forcing change, they should have encouraged it. Australians have a great record for embracing technology, particularly if it makes life easier. People would have naturally made the switch to the new technology and methods because they offered superior service.

Service is about products and services that meet needs. People do not have the time nor the inclination to waste time waiting (see Keeping up - our modern time impatience).

For example, my current bank finally seems to have got the balance right. When I do have to actually visit the branch, I rarely have to wait.

If you focus on the customer and service, your organisation will thrive.

In summary, take care to ensure that customer service staff do not get into the habit of regularly saying sorry.

More importantly, ensure that systems are in place to avoid the need to say sorry because service standards have not been met.

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Resource articles

The resources quoted above are:

Achieving lasting and positive change - written by Derek Stockley.

Keeping up - our modern time impatience - previous newsletter article.

Related articles

Telephone systems need to be customer friendly - examples of poor telephone system designs that do not promote customer service, and what should be done instead.

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