I’m sorry. No, I mean it.

I’m sorry. No, I mean it.

Think about the last time you said that word and truly meant it?

What were you apologising for? Who were you apologising to? Why did it matter to you?

The last time I did it and meant it was just this week to someone I love. I had reacted badly to something. You could argue I had cause but it mattered to me very much that I repaired the rupture so the apology was genuine. But more than that I coupled it with some personal reflection to work out why I said what I did in the way I did.

I’ve also been doing quite a bit of apologising at work recently, to customers for the late arrival of competition prizes. My apologies have been genuine and I’ve gone the extra mile to sort the problem. I’ve personally packed and posted the prizes and included hand written notes. I’ve also called people to let them know it’s on the way. Despite the delay, some winners have now called to say thank you!

When a business gets it wrong, far too often people look for the scapegoat(s) rather than try to work out what’s happened and why before coming up with a solution. In plenty of places I’ve worked it’s because ‘owning’ your part of a problem can be problematic. Before you know it, the blame has been well and truly placed at your feet. We shouldn’t be surprised then, that in a culture like this, our defences shoot up. People attack others first and think later. Shoulders start sloping. And if the problem is customer-facing they get to see a business at war with itself, however cold that war may be.

Faced with a commercial crisis, you’re unlikely to find a lawyer who’ll tell you to apologise. But if you’re going to repair a relationship – and you’re probably going to want to repair ruptures with your customers – you need to own your part of the problem.

Defences kick in instantly, and often unconsciously, their opaque layers getting in the way of a constructive dialogue. They’ll be at play within your customers just as much as within you. So devise your communication strategy accordingly.

Just as proactively apologising in my own life and to all those competition winners brought down the defences and opened a constructive dialogue, it will in commercial communications.

Crisis management in communication terms comes down to doing four things:

1. Acknowledge it: “We understand your concerns and we’re sorry for the inconvenience.”
2. Own it: “We’re finding out what has happened and why.”
3. Fix it: “We’re taking steps to correct the problem now.”
4. Reflect, learn and evolve: “We’re taking the time to learn the lessons, and looking at how we can change so we can reduce the risk of this or something similar happening again.”

Give me a call if you would like some help developing your commercial crisis management strategy.

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