“Sorry” Seems To Be The Hardest Word

“Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” is a song written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin and released by Elton John in 1976.

It’s a mournful ballad about a romantic relationship that is falling apart, yet the title of this song can be applied to describe that dreadful awkwardness and disappointment that occurs in all situations [not just romantic relationships] where the expectations of one party are not met by the actions of a second party.

When this sort of disappointment does occur, the easiest way to clean things up and move on quickly and make things better is for the “offending party” to apologise as quickly as possible.

An apology will always be well received.

An apology is an immediate defuser.

Making things better is also very important, but on its own, making things better without apologising is a very weak second to apologising as soon as possible and making things better just as quickly.

In fact, when you apologise and make things better immediately, there’s only daylight second in that race…

Let me tell you a story….

A person I know really well booked a night’s accommodation last week at a new hotel. He was traveling in that area, and it made sense for him to stay overnight rather than travel back home that evening.

Because this was travel for a personal reason, my friend booked and paid in advance for his hotel room using frequent flyer points.

And as happens when you check in to hotels these days, the hotel took a deposit on my friend’s credit card upon his arrival, in case there were going to be any incidental expenses that needed to be charged to his room.

Anyway, when my friend was reviewing his credit card statement that following week [on the next Friday], the statement showed an entry for the hotel of $400.00 along with a charge for breakfast of $44.00 the following day.

My friend realised that the hotel had made an error with the $400.00 billing, so he phoned the hotel immediately to organise a refund or reversal of the $400.00 charge.

The person who he spoke to on this call told my friend that the refund would be organised at the end of that day, once they had spoken to and discussed this with the hotel duty manager. My friend was also told that he would be contacted that same afternoon once the hotel had processed the reversal.

My friend never received a call back from the hotel on that Friday letting him know that the refund had been processed.

So my friend had to call the hotel again on the following Monday to find out where the hotel was up to with this refund….

When my friend phoned on the Monday, he was told by the person he contacted that the refund had been processed on the Friday before, and that an email informing him of this had been sent to him.

When my friend asked which email address they had sent the refund notification to [as he has three email addresses] the lady on the phone admitted that no email had been sent.

The lady then took my friend’s email address and sent him a copy of his updated statement showing that the refund had been processed.

Here’s the rub…

At no point during this second phone call to the hotel did this woman who answered the phone apologise for any inconvenience, or for any wrongdoing… despite the fact that my friend had been inconvenienced [twice] by the hotel’s actions and then inactions.

There was no apology to my friend for the fact that his initial refund had not been processed automatically on his departure from the hotel.

There was no apology to my friend for the fact that he had had to phone the hotel and raise the fact that he had been overcharged.

And there was no apology to my friend for the fact that he had had to phone a second time to clear up the error and have the charge reversed.

There was no apology to my friend for the fact that the email that the Monday receptionist said had been sent had not been sent, despite the fact that my friend had completed a guest information form and provided his email address on his arrival.

Following on from this…

Following on from this my friend definitely felt that an apology early on would have gone a long way towards defusing the disappointment he had experienced about being overcharged.

Accidental overcharging does occur in all businesses on occasions.

When it does occur, that business needs to implement effective service recovery processes that leave the customer in awe at how much that business wants to make good for the error that has inadvertently occurred.

“Thank you for bringing that error to our attention Mr Jones. I’m so sorry this has happened to you, and I want to make things right for you as quickly as I can.”

Had these words been said to my friend by someone at the hotel, I’m sure he would not have experienced the sinking disappointment that he was made to feel while he waited in limbo for his overcharging to be actioned and reversed.

A small word like “Sorry” has so many hidden powers when used promptly and used with meaning and intention.

In your business…

In your business, make sure that the word “Sorry” is used as quickly as possible when needed, and is followed immediately with SERVICE RECOVERY processes that are so remarkable that your clients and patients are in AWE at how good they are.

Nobody likes making mistakes and nobody likes being on the receiving end of mistakes.

Apologising quickly goes a long way towards making things better quickly, and moving forward in a positive direction.


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