The world is abuzz about the Tiger Woods apology. It seems like the big question is…"was it sincere?"
What a remarkable marketing reminder for all of us.
We're going to mess up with a client, prospect or employee. It's inevitable. Whether it was the result of a bad but conscious choice or human error — for this conversation, is irrelevant. Let's just nod and agree, sooner or later, we're going to screw up.
Now we can write or verbally deliver the most eloquent apology known to man, but that alone doesn't cut it. Words are lovely but you know what they're waiting for….a behavioral apology.
Otherwise, it was just gratuitous lip service. (Which by the way, only compounds the problem!)
What do I mean by a behavioral apology? It can come in several forms but basically, they want to be able to trust you again. Being sorry is swell but what they really want is to know it won't happen again. After all, isn't that the implied promise in any apology. Not only are you sorry about what you did…but that you're also going to fix it and prevent a repeat occurrence?
So there's the real marketing (and perhaps human) challenge. How do we genuinely demonstrate our apology and our pledge that we'll do all that we can to prevent it from happening again?
Change a policy/process: If something in the way you do business caused the problem — then why not learn from the mistake and make an adjustment. The key here is communicating back to the disgruntled customer that their experience triggered an internal audit and based on what you learned — you've made a change.
Fix it x 2: You delivered the flowers to the wrong address or on the wrong day? Don't just re-send what they ordered — up the ante. If they ordered a dozen roses, deliver two. Or offer to correct the problem now with an accurate delivery AND say you'll deliver a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day to the person of their choice. This is about going above and beyond so get creative.
Follow up: After you've made good on whatever your mistake was — pick up the phone or drop by their office. Demonstrate that days/weeks later — you are still concerned about having done them wrong.
Thank them: I know it sounds weird but it's good manners. You might thank them for helping you discover a flaw in your process. Or you might thank them for their patience in letting you work out the proper solution. You might say thank you for how they handled their complaint (no yelling, biting or kicking) or that they gave you a second chance.
While the reason for doing any of these is to truly impress upon the other person that our apology wasn't just fluff, it shouldn't go unsaid that when you craft a meaningful behavioral apology — you can also generate remarkable buzz and good will.
Our clients and employees will forgive our humanness and mistakes but they will celebrate and talk about our heroics when we rise to the occasion and craft a behavioral apology of note.
Trust. Yes, that is the hot button. Can you trust again? Sorry isn’t enough. What does it take to regain trust? The action to regain trust is relative to the offense. Big screw ups need big responses. Little screw ups need little responses. Inappropriate responses increase lack of trust almost as much as no response.
Another idea: Try “asking” your customer what you can do to make it right. Most customers won’t ask for the moon.
Thank you for this interesting article. It is one that speaks to me and will be remembered.
This reminds me of what I learned as a Disney World employee, if you mess up, make it 10x better. If a child fell down getting off of a ride, we rushed to the nearest ice cream stand and handed them over a treat. No crying children = happy guests.
While Tiger’s scandal is titillating, ultimately, I think it will be seen as small potatoes compared to the very significant situation with Toyota’s manufacturing defects and allegations of cover up — or at least serious negligence. When history looks back on marketing spectacles of the early 2000s, Toyota may very well be one of the shining examples. It remains to be seen however, how it will be viewed. Will Toyota be presented as an example of a well-established industry leader, generally viewed as a benign force, which withstood and rebounded from a devastating blow? Or will it be eulogized as a once-towering giant that crashed and was buried by its own rubble?
Thus far, the company’s response has fallen short of the mark. It is uncertain that the changes Toyota has put in place are accurately fixing the problems, and the attempts at apology have generally been received as less than adequate. Finally, the sincerity of both the changes made and the apologies given continue to be called into question as new revelations suggest a history of attempting to prevent the defects from becoming public at the expense of customer health and safety.
My reason for spelling out all of the above is not to bash Toyota. I merely wanted to show that every step in the crisis control process is an opportunity to make things a little better or a lot worse. I have reasonable faith that Toyota has the necessary people and resources to put the right spin on this situation. However, they are going to need to make some drastic moves soon. As Drew states in “Fix it x 2,” it’s time to get creative.
I recommend the book “The One-Minute Apology” by Ken Blanchard to illustrate the power and features, as well as the necessity, of the proper apology.