TIP 22: Never Say You’re Sorry.

The only thing I’m sorry about is working here.

Negative Ned Says…

Negative Ned Not at Fault

“It’s not my fault the customer is unhappy with the product or service. Why apologize for something I had nothing to do with? Nobody wants to take the blame for something they didn’t do. If a customer doesn’t like the way things turn out, that’s too bad. But it’s not my fault. I work with a lot of people in this organization, and I can tell you, some of them are not too bright. Now those people ought to be apologizing for all their screw-ups. If you’re upset with something, find the person responsible and take it up with her. I didn’t do anything wrong, so I don’t need to apologize.”

Positive Paul Says…

Positive Paul

“After a customer is through venting, the first thing out of your mouth should be an apology. When you apologize, you acknowledge a reason for your customer’s hurt or anger. Apologizing is a way of showing respect and empathy toward a person who feels wronged. It may even disarm him of his anger.

Even if it’s not your fault or your company’s fault, you can apologize in many ways, and you must do it sincerely. We’ve all heard the line, ‘Sorry for the inconvenience, but…,’ and that just doesn’t cut it.

Here are some powerful and specific phrases that really work:

  • ‘I apologize for the predicament (situation, hassle, surprise, wait, frustration)…’
  • ‘I’m sorry you were told we carry that brand.’”


A Real World Example

Citizen Of Earth Story

“In the past year, I’ve had to return three defective items to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Not once have I received an apology. Most recently, I had to make a special trip back to the store, stand in line, walk across the store to collect a replacement, stand in line again, be summoned to a register by a clerk who then left, replace eight AA batteries, then check the product myself to see if it worked. Then I discovered that the clerk who had called me to the counter had vanished, and I was informed that the register I was standing at was not actually open and my clerk was not coming back.

Ironically, when a young floor manager finally asked if anything ‘else’ could be done for me, I was at a loss as to how to answer. After all, to that point, nothing had been done for me at all. I had done it all myself.

When I return defective items to other stores, which I’ve had to do with alarming frequency lately, someone usually apologizes for the inconvenience, then collects and checks a replacement item for me. But this has never happened at my local Bed, Bath and Beyond. I receive more scripted ‘hellos’ and ‘how are yous’ than I need. I would prefer genuine help, particularly when faced with the already irritating task of returning defective merchandise. This store’s prices are undeniably low, but I am happily willing to pay more elsewhere for good service.

This most recent experience has served as the final straw in two respects. First, I intend to take a very long break from shopping at stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond. I urge stores who operate in a similar manner to take the steps to make returns more pleasant. Go and get a replacement for the customer, check that it works, and try adding ‘we are sorry for your inconvenience’ to your customer service script.”

Moral to the story: When you see an upset customer and you want to make them more upset, ignore them, take a break. And for goodness’ sake, don’t tell anyone about it.

Strategies to Turn This Around


  1. If you make a mistake, apologize.
  2. If the customer has been inconvenienced, apologize.
  3. If the customer is frustrated, apologize.
  4. When the customer has finished yelling at you, sincerely apologize.


Remember: When you apologize, you let the customer know you truly heard what he said.

“You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work.”

— Laurie McIntosh

© 2012 by Barbara Khozam Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this message may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission of the publisher.

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