Providing an apology when things have gone wrong is more than just administrative etiquette, it is important aspect of handling complaints effectively by demonstrating empathy and respect to the customer. An apology also allows service providers to acknowledge a failing that, may otherwise be allowed to continue and so compromise the experience of customers in the future.   Apologising can diffuse anger and prevent further misunderstandings. While an apology cannot change what happened, if it is communicated sincerely and effectively, it can undo the negative effects of previous service failings.

A Meaningful Apology

A meaningful apology should convey responsibility, regret and remedy.

Firstly an organisation should ensure that in apologising they accept responsibility for the failings which led to the complaint.  This means not blaming anyone else and not making excuses for what happened. For an apology to be effective it must be clear that you accept total responsibility for your action or inaction.

An apology should also acknowledge regret for the failings which led to the complaint.  This includes an expression of empathy, with an acknowledgement of the injustice caused.

Finally an effective apology will include a commitment to resolve the matter.

While you can’t undo what has happened, you can usually take action to resolve the matter to the customer’s satisfaction. Therefore, a meaningful apology needs to include a statement in which you offer restitution, or commit to take action so that there will be no reoccurrence of the service failure.

Access SPSO guidance on Apology here.  This outlines what an apology is and what you need to do to make a meaningful apology.