The Perfect “I’m Sorry”
I was in awe and actually stunned last week. Like the cool, slow motion, jaw dropping kind of stunned. Really I was.
I had realized right then, while sitting there next to Eric and listening to both he and the upset customer, that I had never ever heard it like that before. And I have heard thousands and thousands of customer service calls over these last 25 years.
Until last Wednesday I don’t think I’ve ever heard those two words said just like that and in that way.
But alas, here is how he said it! He said “I’m sorry” and then said nothing. Nothing! You know, the dead air kind of nothing, the “you can hear a pin drop” kind of nothingness.
The two words “I’m sorry” weren’t rendered meaningless by adding moronic drivel like “…..that happened” or “…we did that” or ”…this happened to you” or “…we made a mistake” or “ …we won’t do it again” . None of those polluted words were suffixed to the most perfect “I’m sorry” I’ve ever heard.
That’s it. Two words. “I’m sorry”. And then, no more sounds. No clickety clack keyboard sounds of moving on. No blathering, babbling or god forbid – cross selling. Not even a cough. Nothing – just nothing.
Wait was important. Wait for it to sink in is what I realized he was doing. Wait for it to really mean something to the customer.
And then, on the other end of the line, the soft voice of the customer finally, agonizingly and mercifully said “OK”.
Perfect. That’s all Eric needed to hear.
Think about his choice of using those particular words. There is so much personal lasting ownership in the two words “I’m sorry” when they are left the heck alone. There is vulnerability and sincerity in just those two words and in exactly those two words.
I suspect he already knew what I also had just realized sitting next to him. That using an “I apologize” or any variation of that is just not the same when you compare. I’ve heard it a million times and truth be told, it antiseptically washes over people. “I apologize” rings emptily of what you did while “I’m sorry” rings importantly of how you feel.
You (and I) have two words to practice now with the 3rd part being the perfect silence that follows. I never expected to get taught such a wonderful service lesson on a late Wednesday afternoon from a guy I never met before named Eric who has been on the phones for only 4 precious months. And over the years and maybe even in this blog, I’ve written inaccurately now it seems, about how to apologize and make amends with customers in need. For that I simply say
Till next time,
Grow The Business.