Why a thoughtful apology can actually drive customer retention


Nobody is perfect, and slips do happen in the course of everyday business. But what matters is how you as a company react to them. The biggest mistake you can make is to ignore it. That’s why it’s imperative to communicate openly with the affected customer – on a personal basis, not just with a standard digital response.

Apologizing to customers for something that unfortunately didn’t go as it should is not shameful. On the contrary, only people work in companies, after all. With a sincere apology, you show respect and appreciation for the customer, and ultimately it’s a sign of greatness. But far too quickly, a quick, impersonal email is written, full of standard texts that ultimately just show the client that they are one of many where something went wrong.

It has become the norm for e-commerce providers in particular to automatically take any blame, be it for delivery delays, order processing or the goods themselves. But this assumption of guilt is too often merely a phrase, not really meant that way, and nothing more happens. If it is a matter of delivery delays by the delivery company, you will receive an apology and, at the same time, the answer that it is the fault of the supplier. Ultimately, however, you as the customer have nothing to gain from this.

The difference lies in the customer experience

The topic of “customer experience” is increasingly becoming a very important differentiator for successful companies. The customer experience is made up of all the impressions a customer gathers when dealing with the company. Starting with the initial contact, the ordering process and any problems or special requests that may arise. The decisive factor here is how difficult or easy it is for the customer to reach you as a company and whether you merely fob him off with standard answers or offer personal support. The sum of these experiences makes up the customer’s bond and loyalty.

The biggest and often most important impression is made when problems arise. How easy is your company to contact? Can the customer find the right contact person for their issue quickly and easily, and are they available? Chatbots may be a wonderful way for businesses to offer cheap support, but for the customer it can be a very frustrating experience. And if he is put off on hold for 30 minutes and then encounters a contact person who lacks competence and authority, you are not showing him any appreciation. You treat him like a number that is not important and thus waste a great opportunity to build a relationship with the customer.

Because this is exactly where your opportunity lies: everyone makes mistakes and they can even be a good opportunity to get into personal contact with your customers. You can appeal to the emotions and, by handling the situation correctly, bind the customer even more. If he feels well taken care of and taken seriously, he will remember it clearly and come back again.

You should be aware that negative experiences carry much more weight than positive ones. This means that even if your customer is satisfied with the product, it may mean that he will switch to the competition if he does not feel appreciated. For example, if he can’t reach you when he has a problem and doesn’t get any feedback or apology, you risk losing him.

“The customer experience or customer experience is the sum of consciously perceived events, and interactions between a customer and a brand. In this regard, 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for good customer experiences.” (Esteban Kolsky)

In addition, negative experiences are shared more often than good ones. A study by Esteban Kolsky, Customer Experience for Executives shows that one in ten dissatisfied customers shares their negative experience with 15 people. Yet it’s easy to avoid such escalations by responding quickly and competently to every customer inquiry. You almost always nip the problem in the bud. And if you send the customer a sincere apology, the dust will usually settle.

The apology as an expression of appreciation

Problems and crises between companies and customers should always be seen as opportunities. If everything is going well, you usually have less contact with consumers. Thus, when things go wrong, you can communicate personally with the consumer, build an emotional base and show your appreciation. Moreover, making mistakes means learning. They are important for any company to improve. No one will hold them against you – provided you respond quickly, competently and sincerely.

The form of the apology is especially crucial. Do you send a standard email or contact the customer in person? Even if you enclose a voucher with the mass message or otherwise financially compensate the “aggrieved party,” it’s often not the right way to go. A study by the University of Nottingham showed that nearly 45 percent of customers respond positively to written apologies, remain loyal to the company and even delete negative reviews.

If you want to regain the customer’s trust in a special way, you should rely on a particularly personal format of the apology. A handwritten message in the form of a letter or card is excellent. The apology package is then perfect with an enclosed gift certificate to compensate for the inconvenience. A handwritten message shows your special appreciation for the customer. It expresses an important added value that you have taken time for him and have not spared on costs.

If a customer were to receive a letter at the same time by e-mail and in the form of a handwritten postcard, he will automatically attribute more importance to the card. Our brain makes a snap judgment that this message took more time, effort and cost to reach the recipient than a simple email. This is called “costly signaling.” We thus assign more importance to the handwritten card and perceive it as more important. Learn more here about why handwritten messages work so well, especially in the digital age.

If you can’t write apology letters by hand because it would be too much effort, there is the perfect solution for you: the friendly handwriting robots from Pensaki. You choose the card or stationery online, select a handwriting, send the message and we do the rest for you. Not convinced about how authentic Pensaki’s handwritten letters and cards look? Request a free sample!

So you can turn a negative customer experience into a positive one, and it will pay off for you several times over. After all, 72 percent of customers who have had a positive experience with a company, even if there were problems, tell at least six other people about it.