JS Tip 28: From the Customer Service Workshops: The Strength of an Apology

The apology takes a lot of hits in business: “Never apologize.” “It admits liability.” “It will get you in trouble.”

We suggest—and the research backs this up—a simple apology may get you out of trouble.

For example, the University of Michigan Health System encourages its doctors to apologize for their mistakes. The system's annual attorney fees have dropped by two-thirds, and malpractice lawsuits have fallen by half.

Consider two types of apologies:

I’m sorry this has happened.” “I’m sorry you have to go through this.” These show empathy. You’re not admitting liability; you’re identifying with the other person’s pain. This goes a long way in repairing broken bridges.

“I’m sorry we made a mistake.” “I’m sorry we didn’t notify you.” These admit liability.  When you’re at fault, this demonstrates honesty and accountability.    

Each type is right and appropriate for its circumstances.

And sometimes, it's just the right thing to do. 

For more information, visit www.sorryworks.net and explore their three-part approach to resolving difficulties. They serve clients across the board, from hospitals to businesses.