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  • Bob Burg

“You've basically revolutionized the way we are doing business. . . Your teaching style is very, very effective.”

~ Thomas J. Bartosic, SVP, Career Sales, G.E. Financial Assurance

Saying Sorry Helps, Too!

July 17th, 2012 by Bob Burg

I'm SorryRebecca from Virginia wrote in with a good lesson for customer-service representatives (meaning, everyone in any company!) based on the post entitled, “ACKNOWLEDGE ME!”

“Hey Bob, just had to write and say that your post was right on the mark.

”I’d been trying to straighten out a bank mess-up concerning my nine year old son’s savings account. After four weeks of waiting they said it was fixed, only to get the statement yesterday discovering it had another added service charge. I knew I was frustrated when I went to the bank today, but the manager’s whole attitude took the problem from frustration to complete anger!

”Never once did she apologize or tell me she understood how frustrating this was and that she’d get it fixed. Thanks to your article that I had just read, I realized why I was getting so angry. This allowed me to keep my cool and leave still in control. But, on the way home I was thinking — for this bank it went from my closing my son’s account of $126 when I walked in to my closing all of our family accounts by the time I walked out of the bank — all because someone couldn’t say ‘sorry.’

“When I write the bank president to express my frustration regarding the treatment of a child’s account, I will definitely mention it .” :-)

—–

Thank you for your letter Rebecca. You shared something that all of us in any field of customer contact need to always keep in mind.

Just a suggestion, if I may: when you write to the bank president, be sure to let him or her know how much you had previously enjoyed being a customer and that you always appreciated the staff being friendly and treating you with respect (assuming that’s true).

Then, calmly and rationally state the problem, how it made you feel and the result.

The nicer and less emotional you are in your letter, the more the president does NOT want to lose you as a customer, and will respond accordingly.

For an example of a very effective letter, you can cick here and download my free special report, How to Write A Complaint Letter That Gets Results.

16 Responses to “Saying Sorry Helps, Too!”
  1. Kumar Gauraw said at 10:08 am on

    Wow! Your books, your posts are very impactful, Bob. This is yet another testimonial of the fact. You are such an incredible human being. Thank you for these regular insights!

  2. Bob Burg said at 10:13 am on

    Thank you, Kumar. You continue to bless me with your kindness, my friend and brother!

  3. Linda Ryan said at 10:16 am on

    What a fantastic post and great advice! Hearing Rebecca’s experience at the bank brings back (too many) memories of similar situations where the outcome could have been terrific…. if only they had done what you and Rebecca suggest…APOLOGIZE!

  4. Bob Burg said at 10:32 am on

    Linda, that’s funny, isn’t it? If by “funny” one means “very sad.” Indeed, what happened to her seems to be the rule rather than the exception. On the other hand, that’s what makes is so easy to stand out in today’s world…simply do the things that human beings should actually do. Interesting how that works.

  5. Kim White said at 12:27 pm on

    Great post! Here’s how it’s done right:

    I went to my bank one day and while standing in line a customer support person (she stood at the front and greeted people) smiled and asked me how I was and did I need anything. I mentioned that I was in the bank because I wasn’t able to get logged into my new account on their website. I wasn’t upset or anything, just stated the problem. While I was in line she double checked my account. When I left the line she called me over and walked me through my login information. When I went home I had no trouble getting into the website, so I forgot all about it. But about a week later I got a package in the mail from the bank: an apology letter for the trouble I had with their website and a nice silver pen (that did not contain their logo or other self-promotion). Of course, I’m still with that bank.

  6. Bob Burg said at 1:40 pm on

    Kim: Yep…that’s how it’s done right! Thank you for sharing that with us!

  7. Christie Ellis said at 1:42 pm on

    Such a great post. I always tell people that please and thank you are some of the best words you can use…now I am going to add sorry as well. I can remember once being told by a manager, “don’t apologize for anything because it is like admitting fault and it can get us sued”. what a terrible thing to have learned.

  8. Bob Burg said at 1:52 pm on

    Christie: Yes, I’ve heard that advice re: never saying sorry or in any way admitting guilt because it could open up in a lawsuit or in some other way show a “psychological” weakness. That is some of the worst advice I can ever imagine. By the way, numerous studies show that Doctors/hospital personnel who admit mistakes are much less likely to get sued than those who don’t. And, I think it’s been proven time and time again that whether in business or personal relationships, those who are quicker to say “I’m sorry” or similar words are loved, respected, and appreciated much more than those who do not.

  9. Christie Ellis said at 4:47 pm on

    So tragic, isn’t it. Of course timing is everything and I was just speaking with someone who felt very aggrieved by a particular situation. Know what he said to me?? He said, “if they would have just said I am sorry it would never have gotten to this point”. Now I am not sure of the whole situation but I feel this was a perfect example of what you just said.

  10. Bob Burg said at 5:33 pm on

    Indeed!!

  11. Ross Boardman said at 3:38 pm on

    Bob,

    Very much on the money. It’s ironic as the manual jobs go and the service jobs increase that the world is getting weaker on the “service” bit.

    About 20 years ago I knew my bank managers by name. Dan Boone (yes, real name), lived across the road and Mr Noblett (only called him John after I left university) was local too. I could see these guys with an appointment, they wore a suitthey chose and they had the power to do what they decided. If Mr Noblett thought I was spending too much of my student grant he would make me go to the bank each week and sign out a cash limit set by him. That taught me a few things about responsibility.

    I know my recent bank managers. Of the last 3, all wore corporate uniforms and only 1 had enough inside knowledge of the system and how to do the deal right. The other two would skulk away from work and would grind their teeth if they had to deal with me personally. Brian on the other hand would sometimes come and sit across the bar at our old restaurant and chat over a coffee.

    My next book? A collection of service rants :)

    Keep up the good work and thank you,

    Ross

  12. Bob Burg said at 4:10 pm on

    Ross, it does seem that – with everything we know and have been taught about customer service – that it would be only the rare ones who would be poor in this regard. This is one of the best reasons for free-markets — when a company is punished (by less profit) for their employees providing poor service and rewarded (more profit) for doing things right, they’ll make sure their employees know how to do things right.

  13. Ross Boardman said at 5:06 pm on

    Bob,

    One of the largest utility companies in the UK set debt collectors on me in Summer 2008. I got letters, emails, phone calls and text messages. They would be told to “prove” the debt and they never could. Eventually I served them notice about harassment proceedings and they went away. Next another firm came after, the notice was sent immediately. This pattern continued for almost 4 years before one of them confessed that the debt belonged to a rental property of mine and they had attached my name as the owner and had tracked me to my home. So someone, somewhere had not done their homework and the utility company has lost me as a lifetime customer on any property I own. The upshot is that the utility could get fined by the regulator and the debt agencies landed in licensing trouble.

    A few weeks ago I bought a couple of burgers on my weekly commute. One had a very small bit of something hard in it. I put it to one side and dropped them an email. They sent me an envelope, sent the piece to a lab and came back to me with an apology and vouchers. A small fragment of bone had not been filtered out in their meat supplier. I wasn’t really bothered about making a complaint, I just wanted them to be aware of the object in case they had an unknown problem. I came away feeling well treated, but didn’t really need the vouchers just a simple thanks would have worked.

    On these same journeys I would always refuel at one place and there are a couple of middle aged bikers who work there and always remember you. Each trip over a certain period I earned cinema tickets.

    So a couple of weekends ago we took the kids to see Ice Age 3 and went for fast food on the way home. I didn’t need any vouchers to make me feel appreciated as a customer nor to compensate for error, but both multinationals left me with a really good feeling when it connected together.

    Both of these places will probably have a lifelong customer just for that feeling alone.

    Of the first business, I suspect they wouldn’t even care to lose a customer or get a fine.

    Ross

  14. Mazen Alzogbi said at 9:23 pm on

    Like most people, an apology is appreciated when duly given. However, in my world, an apology followed by a corrective action goes ALL the way. It is “nice” to get an apology for a service “messed up”, and it is even more important that I experience that the person/organization is doing something about it.

  15. Bob Burg said at 10:17 pm on

    Mazen: Yes, indeed!

  16. Patrick Mahan said at 3:04 pm on

    Great article, Bob! And I like Mazen’s comment above.

    I also like Elmer Wheeler’s advice from many years ago… “Say It With Flowers.” Often times, just saying “I’m sorry” or “Thank you” or “I love you” is just lip-service. But as Wheeler said, when you tell your wife you love her—say it with flowers! In other words, don’t just say it… show it!

    A recent example, I ordered chicken tenders at a restaurant. They were raw! The manager apologized and said he would take it off the bill. Of course, you’ll take it off the bill. That’s a given. If he was really sorry he would have offered a free dessert.

    It seems when you give someone something tangible it magnifies the impact of your spoken words. It shows you really mean what you said!

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