When "I apologize for The Inconvenience" Isn't Enough to Retain an Upset Customer

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By Eva
December 2, 2021

Customer dealing is not a job for the faint-hearted. Click here to know what to do when “I apologize for the inconvenience” isn’t enough for the customer. 

Dealing with an angry or upset customer can be challenging. It may take up more than a few skills and experience to bring down the heat at times, and a simple “I apologize for the inconvenience” isn’t often enough.

So whether you are a seasoned customer service representative or new to the field, there’s a lot you can learn and do to serve your customers better. The core concept isn’t just to make a sale but to build a lasting relationship with the client, which comes with trust.

Trust is built over time, depending entirely on the customer’s experience with you and the company. But, of course, that involves several complaint handlings through the years too.

The responses usually depend on the type of complaint, so let’s first look at the most common complaints you’ll encounter with a customer for a better understanding. This will help you learn better responses and tackle the situation better.

Types of Complaints

There are several complaints a single customer or different customers could have in a lifetime. Let’s take a look at a few most common ones here.

Order Didn’t Arrive

One of the main reasons customers feel angry and lash out at the company is when the order isn’t delivered timely.  

How to Handle It?

Track down the package first. Then inform the customer where it’s exactly at and apologize for the inconvenience. But of course, that’s not the answer to their concern.

Come up with a solution or a timeline for when you can resolve it. That, coupled with a complimentary gift or offering, can act as a buffer in the situation.

Wrong Order gets Delivered

Customers - like us - urgently await the order once it’s been placed. Upon receipt, imagine the disappointment when it’s nothing like what they ordered in the first place. It’s obvious the customer would be very upset.

How to Handle It?

Empathy goes a long way. Be understanding, considerate, and show genuine concern that you will take care of the issue.

Let them know when they would receive the replacement and provide the essential details so they know there’s no bluffing there, and then close with a heartfelt apology.

Bad Experience with the Product

Often, the customer doesn’t like the product, or the service doesn’t live up to their expectations. In such cases, too, it comes down to the customer services to deal with all the stress. 

How to Handle It?

An apology alone wouldn’t do. You need to explain how their experience matters to you, how you will take up the matter with the management, and make up for it. 

So assure them that it wouldn’t happen again and explain the process so they know their complaint would be forwarded to the higher authorities, not ignored.

Bad Service Experience

At times the complaint could be due to a bad experience with the staff or bad customer service by a staff member. In such cases, the customer also carries with them a personal grudge against that person. Unfortunately, that grudge has an impact on their relationship with the brand too.

How to Handle It?

Reassurance here that their concern has been heard is the best way to start the conversation. You need to regain their trust in the company, and for that, the complaint has to be officially lodged, and the matter must be investigated.

Apologize on behalf of the person who did them wrong, but don’t over-promise anything. Instead, inform them about how the company deals with the matter, who the authorities are, and how they go about it. 

Once they learn the process, they would know that the company wouldn’t let them down in the future too.

Everything Wrong About “I apologize for the inconvenience.”

Remember what we heard as children every time we apologized? Yes, every time you say sorry, you must mean it. So, if something happens repeatedly, it doesn’t really count as an apology for the customers either.

In fact, “I apologize for the inconvenience” has become so cliche in the customer service domain, people have actually lost trust in the words. 

The customer is really upset; enough to take the time out to lash it out at you. So just saying: I apologize for the inconvenience will make matters worse.

Without telling them how and if their concern would be resolved is a further blow to the scenario.

So what can you do?

Change the system; make it different about your company. Yes, true, you can’t take away all the issues customers face with a wave of a wand, but you can definitely help them feel better by offering your help.

Don’t say “I apologize for the inconvenience” alone; add in the steps you intend to take about it. Tell them how you’ll work it out. Assure them it will be okay for them and once the issue is resolved, write up a follow-up letter.

Loyal customers are the heart of a business and intrinsic to its success. One distraught customer can and will tell nine to ten others about their bad experience. So, make sure to do what you can to make them feel better and then make it alright!

Empathize

Putting yourself in someone’s shoes goes a long way for building trust and long-lasting relationships. In addition, being in customer services puts you in the front line to deal with customer complaints and their general sentiments.

So first, show some empathy before shoving an “I apologize for the inconvenience” in their face.

Tell them you can be trusted; you genuinely feel bad about their experience. Then go out of the box and find a great solution to the problem.

Be Accessible

Your availability and responsiveness matter a lot too. If nobody’s there to listen to the concerns or the customers don’t receive a response, they are bound to get angrier. 

So be available; check the complaint box and emails more often. Listen to the concerns before they go public.

You can also take it as an opportunity to build your reputation; offer your personal number to stay in touch with loyal customers. 

That would serve a dual purpose; 

  1. You’ll become the new favorite go-to person no matter which company you work for; your people will go with you.

  2. The company will benefit from this strong client-employee relationship too.

Acknowledge

When you apologize, first admit the mistake. Then, take full responsibility on the company’s behalf and offer a complimentary gift or offering as an incentive to secure relationships.

Offer an Alternative

Be on the alert with alternatives. As a customer service employee, you need to be hands-on with all the solutions or options you can provide impromptu.

Alternatives to “I apologize for the inconvenience.”

If saying “I apologize for the inconvenience” sounds redundant and meaningless, especially since it has become a catchphrase today, here are a few ways to say the same, meaningfully instead:

  • This is not acceptable; so sorry we let you down.

  • How can we make up for it?

  • We know how frustrating it is...

  • We would like to make amends and sort out the problem with plan B.

  • Sincerest apologies!

  • Please accept this token of apology.

Responding on Email

Emails give you the benefit of not having to witness the actual sentiment of a distraught customer. Unlike phone calls or direct one-on-one interaction, emails give you that leverage. So you can respond much calmly and get the time to think before you act.

However, on the downside, emails are much less personalized. Therefore, unless you use the proper tone and language, they can be perceived as cold and blunt. 

Plus, you need to be careful with the written words. Anything that goes out via the official company account can be used against you.

Tips and Tricks to Build a Connection

Here are a few tips and tricks to respond to customers. They may not always like these, but these tips can help tone down the voice and help the situation stay within control:

  • Choose the words to assure rather than attack the customer.

  • Respond fast; that shows your concern as a company and builds trust.

  • Always be courteous, warm, welcoming, and show genuine concern.

  • A ‘take charge’ attitude also helps the customers believe that you will resolve the matter.

  • Explain but be precise. Talking too much or not letting the customer talk will make it worse.

  • Take responsibility. Ensure the customer that it’s not their fault and empathize.

  • Make them feel important and acknowledge their feelings.

Conclusion

During your service, there will be a lot of times when things don’t go as planned. When that happens, what you can do at the very least is apologize. But do better than just saying, “I apologize for the inconvenience.” Make it right; sometimes go the extra mile to help them better or find better solutions. But no matter what, don’t lose your sanity!

Photo by arash payam on Unsplash