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Tips for great customer service abound.  Many of them are very helpful…the problem is there are a lot of tips.  Sometimes it’s best to focus on just one or at most a few things in your service strategy.  The best tip we have for better customer service is to stop using the word “apologize”.  It seems counter intuitive, but read on for why we think this is a top tip.

Your small business is going to make mistakes with customers; it happens. But as long as you can admit and atone for your mistakes, you can usually save (and even improve) the relationship with your customer.  In fact, often times, working through a problem with a customer is the best opportunity to solidify the relationship.  Not that we are saying to deliberately make mistakes so you can work through them with your customers, but when they happen (and they will), view it as an opportunity, not a headache.

So why shouldn’t you use the word “apologize” when you make a mistake?  The truth is, few phrases are as insincere, or avoid responsibility, as “I apologize.”   Even worse is to say “we apologize.”  To a customer, the word “apologize” sounds like it was written by a legal department or your public relations team.

Instead, admit and atone for the mistake with the sincerer “I’m so sorry.”  It makes you sound like a human being, and because it conveys sincerity, it immediately reduces a customer’s anger and frustration. Saying “sorry” is good, but saying “so sorry” is even better because it communicates empathy.

Companies that have implemented sincere processes like this generally suffer lower customer attrition rates (and dreaded lawsuits). This is because what a customer really wants is to understand what happened.  They want somebody to be accountable.  And, if we proactively admit our mistake by saying “I’m so sorry”, then there isn’t the need for the customer to feel like they have to hold somebody accountable. If we own up and hold ourselves accountable, that takes a huge load off the customer and makes them more willing to allow us to work through the mistake.  In addition, if we accept responsibility and quickly resolve the issue, a customer is more likely (and willing) to deal with us in the future.

And, what if you’re not at fault for this bad thing that happened to the customer? You can still say sorry, just add a few words and say something like “I’m so sorry you experienced this…” This conveys all the empathy without you taking the blame for something your company didn’t do.

For more top tips from your CFO for hire click here.

And for ways to reduce small business costs, which you’ll never have to be sorry about, click on our free offer.

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