Reply To: A question on User Management lesson

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Rose P

Hello Rina,

Thank you for raising the questions. 😊 

I have a question about the “apologizing to the customer” part. In the Different Type of Users video, it is mentioned that people who are a “Feeler” would respond to the user’s anger by apologizing. Also in the Effective Communication video, it is advised to show empathy by saying you’re sorry.

There’s a thin line between empathy and apology. We apologize to angry customers, because either we caused inconvenience, or they experienced inconvenience through us.

However, our empathy is not only limited to angry customers. We can express empathy to any situation. i.e. with a customer who wants to get their shipment expedited. They can be not necessarily angry, but you could feel the urgency, so we can say something like, I can feel the need to receive the shipment sooner. Don’t worry; I will definitely check if we can expedite this for you. (note that your empathy statement should always be followed with your assurance statement.)

Another example is disappointed because they didn’t know they’re on automatic renewal, and they were charged automatically. We don’t have to apologize for this, nor say sorry. We could say, I realize you were not really expecting this to happen. I can absolutely review the transaction if it’s still possible to refund.

I’m so sorry to hear that, and/or I understand the inconvenience, have been widely used in Customer Service that they tend to sound monotonous at times. In this lesson, we aim to construct more empathy statements that would sound more appropriate (and sincere) to the user’s current emotions and situations.

I’m trying to understand the difference between being sorry and feeling sorry. How do we distinguish the two?

I must say the feeling of guilt is what separates them. You can feel sorry for what happened to another person. You feel for them, but it’s not your fault. You are only putting yourself to their situation, that if you were you would feel bad, too.

I compare this with a grateful person. You can be thankful in any situation, but not for every situation.

In The Ultimate Guide to Customer Support book by The Zapier Team (p. 42), it says:

“Offer a heartfelt apology, even if you did nothing wrong.”

In my opinion, this applies to situation when the company itself lacks something. In one of the lessons, I mentioned that when customers talk to you, they are not talking to you, but to your company. Most of the time, when a customer contacts us and upset with the company, we get initial instinct of Why are you shouting at me, it’s not my fault?

I do want to make the angry customer feels better by apologizing to them, but at the same time, I don’t want them to think that our company did make mistake when we didn’t. Even worse, I don’t want them to tell their friends that the company did something wrong.

Apologizing doesn’t always make customers feel better. Therefore, you don’t really have to apologize for something your company did not do. Empathy is seeing/hearing/feeling from the customer’s stand. You see the inconvenience. You hear the frustrations. You feel the importance. You acknowledge the emotions behind the conversation.

In what circumstances apology actually works when dealing with customers?

You apologize if you or your company caused an inconvenience to the customer directly. (i.e. wrong item shipped, delayed follow-up emails, delayed resolution, etc).

I hope this answers your questions. If you have any further questions/clarifications, feel free to let me know. 😊