Have you ever had a customer that can’t seem to stop apologizing? Whether this is due to true embarrassment or a desire to not seem an inconvenience is not as important as how we handle these cases. Our job is to help our customers relax and feel comfortable. Here are some easy ways to do so.
Be Self Deprecating
Caroline needed to return an assortment of items. She called in for a return authorization and “apologized that I was going to be a pain to help because of all of the things I needed to return. I expected a kind of resignation to their fate of an annoying customer to deal with.” The response Caroline actually got was far different. “The girl that was helping me instead made light of it. ‘I’ve returned way more things before! Don’t worry about it, I can help you quickly!’ she told me. Somehow that willingness to draw a comparison to herself underscored her willingness to help so perfectly and naturally that Caroline “instantly felt better about it. We laughed for a second and I felt like we had bonded a little. I hung up after that feeling happy – not just with the company. but in general.”
Do Not Hesitate
When a customer perceives their need to be alarmingly simple, they often lead with an apology. The best reaction in these cases is to offer an immediate and enthusiastic assurance that you are happy to help them. A gracious response might look like, “You needn’t apologize to me, it is my pleasure to help you solve this problem/clear things up for you/take care of this right away.” The focus should be on your honor to be of service to them, and this is only taken to be genuine if the response is prompt.
Harry had to contact a retailer about a problem he was having with one of their products. “I was certain that it was a case of user error, but couldn’t figure out what exactly was going wrong. When I called, I apologized to the gentleman on the line and gave him a quick rundown on what was happening. He told me that he’d personally spoken with other customers in the same predicament who also felt the problem was on their part. But, he’d found that each case seemed to have some things in common and he suspected a bug. That made me feel a lot better; that I wasn’t causing the problem. When he gave me an easy workaround, I had everything I needed until the next software update.” Using the tried and true feel-felt-found approach of sales in service is equally effective as it brings the customer into the wider community of customers. Knowing their problem is not the first of its kind is often just the ticket to reassuring a slightly self conscious customer.
A customer who begins a request for help by apologizing is coming in to the interaction trying to accommodate us and our feelings, so seizing the opportunity to instead impress upon them our commitment to putting them at ease and ensuring that their problems are solved is particularly well received. Do not pass up the opportunity to bond with these customers!