Apology, Satisfaction, Recovery Mangement and Marketing Services

In services zero defects is difficult to achieve. Uncertainty is inherent to service creation and delivery. To a great extent customer-provider interface in the service factory is responsible for deviations to happen. Two days back I had to go without dinner because a local restaurant failed to execute my delivery order and I was left waiting into midnight. The restaurant did not bother to apologize for this failure. I have written off the service outlet in question for all times to come. Feeling of hurt comes naturally in any incident of violation. But it is also natural for violations to happen in social or business conduct. One of the most powerful strategies to recover from failures is to tender apology and say ‘sorry’. It is makes both great spiritual and business sense.

Geetika Jain in one of the Speaking Tree columns wrote an interesting piece on the importance of apology.  We express an apology by saying sorry. But a sincere apology is to be distinguished from superficial one.  A superficial apology may reflect how well groomed and polite a person is but it is not same as a true meaningful apology. Apologizing for our wrongdoings operate superficial and deeper levels. When an act of apologizing is diminished to only uttering a word ‘sorry’ without accompanying a  deeper sense of  realization,  it becomes superfluous. The pretence may help the harmed/violated but harm the pretender. A heartfelt apology is real, and it works wonders for both parties involved.

An apology, on the surface is an opportunity to get out of a difficult situation but it should not be seen in this way. A mere utterance of the word minus sincerity, repentance and atonement render it hollow and futile. ‘To err is human, to admit one’s error is super human’. Facing the victim and apologizing is an act of courage. People in harmony with their life say ‘sorry’ with an ease.  The positive and conscientious achieve peace with themselves only after making amends.

Saying ‘sorry’ does not involve monetary cost but gives back in a number of ways. The mistakes are diluted, tepid and estranged relations come back life. ‘Sorry’ can dissolve animosity, bitterness and resentment. This dissolution of rancor sets stage for resolution and achievement of harmony. ‘Sorry’ is a powerful mechanism not only to appear the victim but ourselves as well. Harming or offending someone deliberately or by mistake makes us guilty whether we admit it or not. This guilt can sit deep into our subconscious unleash misery by robbing peace and harmony.  We can become prisoners of guilt. ‘Sorry’ is therefore liberating and cathartic. Deep seated guilt can cause psychosomatic maladies. Saying sorry and admission of mistakes is sign of evolved human being.

Going down the path to admitting mistakes and apologizing is not easy. Only evolved people are able to do so. The true pristine self rushes to say ‘sorry’ but it is ego which obstructs. It is the ‘I’ rooted in age, social hierarchy, money and status that prevent us to be in our true sublime self. ‘Age and social status can also thwart this sublime act’. It is then no surprise that prayers in most religions comprise of apology for transgressions and repentance for mistakes.


6 thoughts on “Apology, Satisfaction, Recovery Mangement and Marketing Services

  1. sir,
    that was a touching piece. modern day service providers require to give more than a rhetoric apology. failure in services is a common occurrence in our country. lack of standardisation, non adherence to defined processes and lack of consumer awareness all contribute to sub standard services. an apology is only a starting point of wooing back your lost client/customers. it goes on to show the sincerity and an endeavour on the part of the service provider to make up for the error, promise a better experience with them in future and most importantly a feedback for their self improvement. in times to come as service industry matures we hope to see a change in attitude, sincerity on the part of the provider to give better service experience and above all rise above self and utter those magical healing words SORRY with sincerity. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Sir,

    While what you said is true, I would really like to understand and delve into the causes of the non-heartfelt apologies. I believe, truly being apologetic is one side of the coin, the other being truly happy when providing superior service. This is only possible when the service deliverer sees a connection between his personal contribution and the result. What’s essential is the mindset of “If I do well, the customer is happy; if the customer is happy, the company grows; if the company grows, I grow”. In large organisations, wherein work is segmented, it’s difficult to see the entire chain and results in a disconnect between the employee and the organisation goals. Also, while doing a job over and over again renders it “mundane” in the mind of the employee and he stops seeing the connect. Thus, when he does good work, he is not delighted; by the same logic, when he does bad work, he is not truly apologetic. Thus, the “sorry” that comes out of his mouth is a part of his job and not heartfelt. Here, I believe is the part of the HR and the managerial staff to ensure that when the staff hits the “mundane” mindset, they do something about it. Like provide him with some additional responsibilities (I have usually seen this works) or provide a slight change in the nature of the same job. These are just few ideas.

    There is another angle to it and this is something we as customers are at fault. A very common sentence that I have heard from the customers (and this is especially common in Indian customers) is that “We have given money, so he owes us good service”. While I am not arguing the logic, all I am saying is, it doesn’t hurt to be nice to those who deliver the service. US based food joints like Pizza Hut have the bell at the door for customers who have had a good experience. This acts as a sign of encouragement for the service staff. While it’s appreciable, we need to imbibe this in our social culture to smile, look in the eye and say “Thank you”. So, when we are complaining about poor quality, it actually resonates with the staff.

    Would love to know your thoughts on this.


  3. sir while i agree with the basic principles espoused here, my concern is the culture/context in which a service provider operates. For example it is very common in flights to india or otherway around passengers getting drunk and misbehaving. sometimes it may not go that level but then again a passenger may be creating nuisance on-board ( a more common phenomenon). Customer education is i believe equally important in service delivery.

    • Dear Tarang, you are right when you say customer education is a must for shaping expectations and conveying what is acceptable and what is not. But my concern here is that an apology in right situations is therapeutic. It can allow you to regain mental balance so that you are able to perform in the best possible manner. Violations create guilt and burden to guilt can have toll on your psychological poise.

  4. Pingback: A corporate apology. « This blog has lots of posts!

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