First things first, if you haven’t joined us yet for the “End the Year, End the Course” Challenge, I highly encourage you to do so now! We’ll be starting on Monday, November 16th at 9 AM and together we’re going to finish the client experience course taken around the world, “Designing the Design Process: The Foundation of an Exceptional Client Experience.”
And the best part of it is? There’s built in accountability AND a greater explanation of how to apply what you’ve learned in the course, on an actual project. It’s 3 LIVE calls, over 3 weeks and we’re going to combine the pre-recorded course that you’re able to take whenever it’s convenient for you, and throw in a live element as well.
So if you’re wanting to deliver a 5 star client experience, if you’re wanting to find ways to calmly, confidently, but also warmly handle pushback from clients, if you want to find ways to be more efficient and straight forward with clients on how you work while also having them adore you for it, and if you’re ready to be known as the designer who not only creates jaw dropping spaces but also unforgettable, personalized experiences, well, then hop on board with us.
And whether you’ve already purchased the course but just haven’t been able to finish it yet, or have had purchasing the course on your to do list but just haven’t pushed the “buy” button yet, I encourage you to take that next step. I encourage you to take us up on this challenge. I encourage you to join us as we dedicate ourselves to finishing this year, and this course, together, so that we can all deliver the experience that clients are hoping for.
Sorry that I’m So Sorry
Alright, now onto this week’s post, saying sorry too much. Now saying “sorry” is one of those things that’s often a struggle. It’s not fun. It’s not enjoyable. In fact, it’s often dreadful. It’s admitting fault and mistake, and so we often avoid it at all costs. Some of us struggle with it personally, some of us struggle with it professionally, and some of us struggle with both. But what if you don’t struggle with it at all? And you actually apologize too much, is that just as big of a problem as not apologizing enough? You betcha.
Now personally struggling with apologizing too much is one thing, and struggling with it professionally is another, but both of them have the same outcome, seeming lowly or less than to both yourself and others. And not in the honorable, humbling way that one can lower themselves. And not in the good, service oriented way either. No, in the way that people stop looking at you and up to you as a strong, reliable, dependable, confident, leader; and start looking down on you as a bit of a weakling. And that, well, that we do not want.
So how do you find the balance between the two? And how do you know when you’ve apologized “too much” or just enough? Well, unfortunately there’s no hard and fast rule. There is no exact answer for how many times to say “sorry” or “I apologize” in a conversation as 1) it depends on how big your error was and 2) it depends on how long it takes you to fix the error, if you are able to fix it.
Thankfully though, there are some general principles and formulas on how to apologize, and how often to apologize, that can be used in just about any scenario you’ll need them in. So let’s go ahead and walk through some now. We’ll cover two of them this week, and one more next week, as well, I like to save the best, or really worst, for last.
A Small Mistake Equals a Small Apology
Alright so let’s start out with a small error like running late. It’s the initial consultation and you just ran into traffic, even though you left early enough to arrive at the house 15 minutes early (don’t go to the door 15 minutes early though, just drive around the neighborhood to get a feel for the style, and then knock on the door at the exact time you’re supposed to), you checked the traffic, your car and bag were ready and waiting. You didn’t do a single thing wrong, and there’s literally nothing you could have done differently to prevent the error.
But, still you can’t arrive on time, and your ETA is now 20 minutes after you’re supposed to be there. What do you say when you call to inform the client? Do you go on and on, and on, saying you’re sorry? Definitely not. But do you just brush it off like it’s no big deal? Absolutely not. You need to find the happy medium.
Here’s what you should say, “Hi Jamie, this is Ashley Uhl. I’m so sorry but it’s looking like I’m not going to be able to arrive at your house until around 9:20. I’ve run into some traffic on 64 near Ballas Rd where there’s an accident and right now only one lane is open. If I arrive at 9:20, will that still work with your schedule or would you prefer to reschedule for another day?”
Then you let her answer. Let’s say she’s fine with pushing the meeting back by 20 minutes. So you reply with, “Ok, wonderful. I’ll be there as soon as I can and if I get another major ETA change on my GPS, I’ll call back to check in with what you’d like to do. I really apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your understanding. I look forward to meeting you soon!”
See, apologetic, but still confident. You didn’t focus on the error. You didn’t even focus on the apology. You just shared it, then moved on to the solution, gave her a choice in what she preferred, apologized one last time, and then moved on to something positive – meeting her soon. Bravo you!
A Bigger Mistake Equals a Bigger Apology
Alright so now let’s take on something a little bigger. Let’s say you’ve lost your client’s deposit check and you need them to write another one. This was unfortunately, your fault. There is something that you could’ve done to prevent it. You could have deposited it right away on your bank app. Or, you could have put it in your designated checks bag, that you keep in a safe until you go to the bank.
However that day, you were harried and hurried because of another project, and you saw the envelope, opened it, took out the check, and now you don’t know what you did with it. Not good. You frantically search you entire office for it, and it’s a no go. There’s no sign of it anywhere. You have to call the client so you can get another check.
So what do you call and say? Well, it’s obviously going to have to be bigger this round than when you’re just accidentally stuck in traffic. Now the client has to endure a couple of real hassles as a result of your mistake – they have to rewrite the check, and they have to call up their bank to cancel the original one. Eek, adding unnecessary tasks to your client’s “to do” list because of your mistake, not something you want to happen… Plus there’s the possible loss of a bit of trust, at least for now. This is really going to be an awful conversation.
So let’s not procrastinate any longer and find out what we should say in our apology. Here we go, “Hi Stacy, this is Ashley Uhl. I was calling because I needed to let you know that unfortunately I’ve misplaced your deposit check. It is in the office but I’m unsure of where it went. I so greatly apologize for this as I know having a check lost is both an inconvenience and a concern. I did refer to other checks you’ve previously sent to find out what bank you use, so I could research the process for a check cancellation. I found out that there’s no fee associated with a cancellation, although if there was of course I’d cover it, and I have the phone number right here that you’re able to use for the cancellation. I’m so sorry for this inconvenience.” Then you let them respond, they say “It’s ok. Things like this happen. Thank you for researching the process and for the number. I’ll call them right now.”
You reply with, “Of course, anything that I can do to make this as easy as possible on you. Also, is there a convenient time today or in the next few days for me to drop by and pick up a new deposit check so I can place your orders? I’m happy to come to your home or office to pick it up, whatever is best for you, and then I’ll deposit it immediately after.” They reply with, “Ok. If you want to come to the house in about an hour I can give you another check.” Your response, “Absolutely, I’ll be there. Again I greatly apologize for this mistake and I thank you greatly for your understanding. I’ll see you soon.”
And off you go. In an hour you arrive, apologize just one more time, thank them, again state that you’ll now go to deposit the check and will place their orders by the end of the day. And that’s it. Don’t go on and on and on apologizing, or explaining how it happened or what happened, or making excuses.
You just want to state the problem, apologize, and focus on what you’re going to do about it. Then close with another apology. Yes we added in the word “greatly” to reflect that this was a bigger problem, and how apologetic we needed to be. We also thanked them greatly for their understanding. However we didn’t over do it.
In fact overall we only had 3 apologies, 1 at the beginning of the call, 1 at the end, and then we had the 1 in person. So that’s three total, not 6 or 7. And honestly, you might even be able to kick out the extra apology in person and instead just thank them for their understanding as sometimes even that third apology can be too much. It’s really just a judgement call.
Don’t Let “Sorry” Lead You Away from Leading
Now why do you want to give clients so few apologies and why is maybe even 3 too many at times? Well, because anything more than that takes you from a leader whose made a mistake but ready to fix it, to someone whose begging for forgiveness.
It moves you from confident and action oriented, to someone who needs comforting from a client. And you never want your client to be in that position. Now sure it can be a delicate balance to find when you’ve really goofed up, but maintaining that confident leadership position, is important no matter what happens. Humbled, yes, but weak, certainly not.
Alright, so that’s it for this week and next week we’ll be back to finish this thing out with how to apologize for those epically awful times, and to sum up just how to alter and adapt these apologies for you and your own situations, whenever they unfortunately do happen. So sorry about it, but, well, life is tough, and sometimes, apologies just need to be made. But no worries, we’ll show you the way.
Until next time!
Let me know in the comments below, do you ever feel like you say sorry to your clients too much? If so, I’d love to know!
And if you’re ready to do whatever it takes to end this darn year in a good way, then join us in the “End the Year, End the Course Challenge” here!