The Worst Apology I’ve Ever Heard

John’s Perspective

Service recovery is a necessary part of conducting business. Invest in executing it properly and even in the worst situations, your customers will still be loyal to your brand.

We’ve all heard them: insincere or patronizing “apologies.” Whether it’s something we experience as a consumer or in our personal lives, “non-apologies” only serve to upset us further. The worst “apology” I’ve ever heard was several years ago, when I was waiting for a table at a restaurant at which I had a reservation. My wife and I checked in on time for our reservation, only to be left waiting in a crowded entryway for over twenty minutes. At this point, when I calmly informed the host that we’d been waiting twenty minutes, and asked when he thought we might be seated, he gave me the worst apology I’ve ever experienced: “I’m sorry you don’t understand how busy we are.” Needless to say, our romantic dinner out was ruined, as was our experience at that restaurant (to which we never returned).

Proper service recovery is something we value and have processes for at The Ritz-Carlton. As an individual who has had the privilege of working for The Ritz-Carlton brand for over two decades, I have seen countless situations where a Lady or Gentleman has needed to empathetically listen to a guest or client, and sincerely and genuinely apologize. And it’s truly amazing: no matter the situation or how angry the guest was to begin with, the situation is almost immediately defused by the excellent service recovery and delivery of a genuine apology. And in all of these instances, the guest, who was usually very unhappy to begin with, left with even stronger loyalty and dedication to our brand.

Today, the risks of not having proper service recovery and an ingrained process for sincere apologies run the range of losing customers one-by-one to losing them very quickly, should your organization go viral and in the news for a poor or non-existent apology. Mistakes and errors will happen in your organization and your competitors’. In the end, it will only be the service recovery that is remembered.

Experience our newest Engagement Service, Art of the Apology, and engage in this highly-interactive workshop to learn the principles of empathetic listening, best-in-class service recovery, and how to craft an authentic apology.