Lesson No. 30: It’s Hard To Say I Am Sorry
I didn’t purpose to be in the space that I find myself in – Founder & CEO, Passionate Entrepreneur, EQ Fanatic and OWIT Nairobi President. God plucked me from the path that I had set out for myself & set me on an alternative journey. At the start it all appeared somewhat ‘accidental’ but I know now that it was no accident, rather His design, His purpose for my life…
So now that I am here, these are my confessions…the lessons I am learning about being a woman in business, building an empire, one brick at a time…
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
― Benjamin Franklin
Many find it hard to say “I’m sorry” to customers, perhaps because they feel that an apology is an admission of wrongdoing. And yet, all too often, “I’m Sorry” is just what the customer needs to hear.
I love to tell the story of an experience I had at a shop I used to frequent at a nearby mall. I needed to get my handbag repaired so called into the cobblers. They took down my details & gave me a job card & told me to collect my bag the following Monday. On Sunday, I happened to be nearby so I called on the cobbler – on the off chance that my bag was ready a day early. I handed over the job card & was asked to wait whilst they looked for my bag. I quickly told the gentleman manning the front desk that I was early but figured it was worth asking if my bag was ready. He went round the back to ask if my bag was ready. About five minutes later, the shoemaker himself came out to speak to me.
“Madam,” he said, “Your bag is not ready. We went into town last week to look for the replacement clasp & we could not find it in the right colour.”
“Ok,” I responded. “So when were you going to tell me about this?”
“Well, um, you were due in tomorrow weren’t you?” was his reply
“Yes,” I replied, “but tomorrow I was coming to collect my bag – my repaired bag,” emphasising the word repaired.
The shoemaker looked at me and I looked at him, waiting expectantly, certain my apology was forthcoming.
He continued to look at me, a look that seemed to say… and what?
“Let me make sure I understand,” I said. “You took my details when I left the bag. You have my phone number & yet you didn’t call.”
“We have been busy,” was the unapologetic response. “And anyway, it’s not our fault we couldn’t find the clasp.”
Now I think I am a pretty reasonable individual but at this point I was starting to get a little annoyed.
“I understand that you weren’t able to find the replacement clasp. That isn’t the issue here. The issue is that you have my number & yet you failed to call. You could have saved me the inconvenience of coming to the mall.”
Before the shoemaker could respond, the manager, who had been quietly watching our exchange turned to me & said,
“Madam, I think you are making a big deal over nothing…”
Suffice to say that was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I proceeded to tell the manager & the shoemaker exactly what I thought about their service…
Was I really making a big deal over nothing? I think not. All I really wanted was an apology. At any point in the conversation, a simple “I’m sorry” twinned with a solution to the problem would have turned things around and won me over. I would have left the store an advocate for their services, instead of the ever-so-vocal adversary that I am!
According to Jeanne Bliss, how you apologise is your humanity litmus test. I have learned that at some point my business will suffer a failure that disappoints customers. How we react, explain, remove the pain, and take accountability for our actions signals how we think about customers, and the collective heart of our organization.
Grace and wisdom guide decisions of beloved companies toward accepting responsibility and resolving the situation when the chips are down—not accusations and skirting accountability. Repairing the emotional connections well is a hallmark of companies we love. It makes us love them even more.
The Queen Of Hearts
| Six Seconds EQ Practitioner | Master Trainer & Facilitator |
| Award Winning International Keynote Speaker |