Sorry seems to be the hardest word

SorryI’m one of those people that like to give others the benefit of doubt. So when something goes wrong I’ll usually go out of my way to give feedback giving them the chance to put things right – and retain my trust or custom.

Getting feedback from customers and being given a chance to turn things around is such a valuable opportunity for any business. So why is it some businesses make it such a painful process?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had two instances where I’ve got to the point where I’ve been so frustrated. In both instances I’ve heard all the excuses under the sun.

In one case I have to admit I was initially at fault.


Did that make it okay for me to have to speak to 6 different people to get the situation resolved?

Having phoned the number I thought was for my business manager (for a service that is supposed to be available 24/7) to end up with somebody who wasn’t empowered to make a decision to resolve my issue, but told that nobody else was available.

Having agreed that somebody would phone me back the following day after 2 PM, why then did they phone me at 9:15 AM…? But that’s a different story altogether (later being told that it wasn’t possible to call the customer back when it was convenient to the customer, only when it was convenient to the business! Good grief; some businesses just don’t get it do they!)

When I did finally get to speak to somebody who could resolve the issue I must’ve heard a dozen times about their policy, but not once did I get an apology for all the aggravation that I’d been through to get to this point.

In the other situation I went to give feedback on something that is the recurring problem. But because I’ve already given feedback so many times and it’s fallen on deaf ears I decided on this occasion to be more direct. So I announced the dreaded words “I want to make a complaint!”

So far, so good. Because for the first time I’d feed back on this issue I actually got to speak to a manager. Did it actually do any good? Well, time will tell if the issue gets resolved.

But I must’ve heard every angle on this situation: whose fault it was, what the possible options were, why they haven’t resolved it yet, blah blah blah…

But in our 10 minutes conversation I didn’t hear the word sorry once.

So why is it so hard for people to say sorry?

This doesn’t mean taking personal responsibility (although at times that would be nice!), or admitting liability. It means as a very minimum showing some empathy towards the customer by saying sorry. …Sorry they’ve had a bad experience, or you’re sorry they feel let down, or you’re sorry they’ve had a frustrating time, or you’re sorry if there’s been a misunderstanding, or you’re sorry something wasn’t available today, or you’re sorry the weather wasn’t as nice as it could have been….

Just hearing those words “I’m sorry” can make such a difference from the customer’s perspective, and maybe all they need to hear.


So in the words of Elton John….

“…What have I got to do to make you care… ?

“….What have I got to do to be heard…?


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