Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tone Tips, Part 9: Apologizing Unconditionally

"We're sorry you're upset about the options available to you, but our policy states ..."

"I apologize for the late arrival of your package; however, higher than usual demand ..."

"The company regrets this price increase, but rising expenses ..."

Puleeze. Puleeze. Puleeze. We see through your shallow, insincere apologies. The word apology can mean a justification or an expression of regret. If we want to justify, then we have nothing to apologize for; if we want to express regret, then we should not negate the regret. 

An apology should be unconditional. We should clearly assert it and follow it with an acknowledgement, assurance, adjustment, or all three, as you can see in United CEO's Oscar Munoz's apology email to MileagePlus members. An acknowledgment is a statement telling our readers they deserved better treatment. An assurance is a promise to clean up our act. An adjustment is a means of making up to our readers by granting a favor. Here is a rewrite of each statement at the beginning of this post:

1. With an Acknowledgment: "We're sorry the options we've made available to you do not suit your needs. We know how important a wide range of choices is to a discerning customer, and we realize we have fallen short of that expectation ..."

2. With an Assurance: "I apologize for the late arrival of your package and want you to know my commitment to make this a one-off situation ..."

3. With an Adjustment: "The company needs to increase prices to cover rising production costs, but we will stand by our pre-increase rate for this order ..."

Make those apologies sincere, and they will be believable.