Why are we scared of sorry?

What makes it so hard for us to apologise?

Is it pride? Fear? Or as I have often heard, because it is an admission of guilt?

Perhaps a combination of all three.

The last reason one seems quite pervasive in customer service roles, where a I suspect a reluctance to apologise stems from a desire to avoid compensation at all costs*.

True, there is a risk of devaluing the word sorry if it is overused. It can lead to a feeling of helplessness on one side and of annoyance on the other.

Last year we were travelling abroad and our train was delayed. We were kept waiting for several hours. That was unacceptable so we complained.

The response, via email, arrived a couple of days later. After a formal salutation, the first few words were:

“Thank you for your email.

I am very sorry…”

The remainder of the first paragraph summarised the cause of our problem (the delay) and expressed an understanding of the impact that it had on our trip.

The next two paragraphs explained that we would have our ticket refunded in full and a voucher that we can use on a subsequent booking.

Only then was there an explanation of the cause of the delay. It was detailed enough to provide the multiple factors and the steps taken to rectify the problem.

The structure:

  • Gratitude
  • Apology
  • Empathy
  • Solution
  • Explanation

The result? We remain happy customers and will continue to use the service.

The company? https://www.eurotunnel.com/uk/home/

*I remain open to anyone who can provide documented evidence of situations that have been made worse by a sincere and genuine apology.

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

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