Brands must learn the fine art of apology

A brand is more than the public face of an organisation; it’s what we think about it and what we tell our friends. A brand, and its strength, is purely and simply the sum-total of every customer experience that it served up. And more importantly a brand is a phenomenally hard thing to restore if it’s been destroyed.

If we think about a brand-name as a personal friend, then we can ask ourselves whether we would like that friend to say sorry when they let us down. Of course we would, and so the brand should think the same. Only in a brand’s case, it’s potentially letting down tens of thousands of friends at the same time.

The first step is actually acknowledging to the customer what has happened, and doing it quickly. Brands must not appear to be burying their heads in the sand while they “strategise” the best way to apologise.

Brands simply need to ask themselves: Are our customers going to be satisfied with the way we have apologised? Or is it going to be viewed as purely a self-serving exercise?

With customers having no shortage of alternative brands wanting to make new friends, it’s not rocket science; three strikes and you’re out – and that’s taking an optimistic view.

But a sincere and timely apology or explanation can go a long way to managing the experience as a customer, which goes for any valued relationship. In many cases, it truly is the thought that counts. The right communication tools are there, so there really is no excuse.

Think about your broadband provider and when the service is down. You get angry and frustrated, and when they do nothing to explain or fix the problem, you dump them.

But if they sent you a text message, an email or even an automated phone call to say “we’re sorry” and “we’re fixing the problem because wegenuinely care and want to look after you, and we’ll keep you posted with our progress as we get you back up and running”, then you may forgive them.

And they may retain your loyalty as a customer. It’s a no-brainer.

Marlon Bowser, CEO, HTK

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