Question from a Subscriber: What is your recommendation on how often to apologize and what to apologize for?

how to apologize to a customer

Here's a smart question from Trisha, one of my email subscribers.

I work with a team that provides email support. I have seen a trend that I'm not sure how to address.

When de-escalating through email, they often apologize two to four times within a single interaction. Sometimes they will add in an apology for a delay in response, even when there wasn't one and the customer didn't complain, OR they apologize for a product feature that is by design. To me, it comes across as inauthentic.

What is your recommendation on how often to apologize and what to apologize for? I hope to remove some of the gray areas for my team.

My answer

I had a contact center employee who tried to de-escalate with apologies. When customers got angry or pushed back, my agent would chime, "Sir, I apologize." She'd do that three or more times in a phone call.

Customer Support teams over apologize in an attempt to de-escalate or when they don't know what else to offer. Help your team understand why they say "sorry." Is it an attempt to de-escalate? Is it because they're stuck? Work through the why with them.

Guide your team to say, "I'm sorry," no more than twice in email, chat, and phone interactions.

I want you to notice that I want your team to say, "I'm sorry, rather than apologize." Apologizing and saying "I'm sorry" are two different things.

In my video below, I break down what the research says about apologizing, and I'm giving you phrases for expressing "sorry" and empathy.

Thanks for your question, Trisha.


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