The Lost Art of Saying “I’m Sorry.”

Photo Credit: Frankie Leon via Creative Commons license

Photo Credit: Frankie Leon via Creative Commons license

This post was originally published on the FCR blog on September 8, 2015.  Click here to read the original.

Do you know what a brake booster is?  Neither do I.  But apparently the one on my car is broken.  In the past I have not withheld my fondness for my mechanic.  The only problem is that I moved and now must find a new shop with whom to entrust a couple of my most expensive possessions.

My first step in seeking out a new shop was to turn to Yelp.  I found one shop with a few positive reviews right down the street and decided to try them out.  In my experience, they couldn’t have been nicer.  They fixed my brake booster and I was on my way.

The next day, I called them back because my power train light came on.  Coincidence?  Reasonable logic would deduce that whatever work they did on my brakes might have something to do with this light.  They said their main mechanic was out of town and would give me a call back the next day.  That was five days ago, my light is still on, and I have not received a call back!

There’s a pattern forming here with this shop.  Through the course of my car issues, I’ve called the shop a few times to check in after not hearing back within the promised time frame.  While they are extremely nice, they apologize for not calling me back when they said they would.

We sure have cheapened the word “sorry” haven’t we?  Does “sorry” really make up for failing to call someone back within a promised time frame?  In his book, Nice Guys Finish First, calling people back when you say you are going to is foundational to Doug Sandler’s Nice Guy philosophy.  Before I go making myself look like a model citizen, I should confess that I’ve been guilty of the (super) late call back and have more than once hoped that a simple apology would atone for it.

I propose we reclaim the apology.  In the case of the callback, if you miss one, saying “sorry” should mean, “I messed up this time but can assure you I have learned my lesson and will improve for next time.”  If you’re going to be chronically late, just keep the apology to yourself.

For those of us in customer service, our success absolutely depends on our ability to keep the promises that we make to our customers.

As for my car, I’m still in the midst of that saga.  I have a feeling I’m going to get a couple more blog posts out of this one.  If you live near me and know a mechanic that knows cars AND customer service, I’m looking for a good one.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.


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