How to Apologize When Your Company Screws Up

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Between Tiger Woods and Toyota, there’s been quite a bit of apologizing going on lately, and while ideally you never want to be in a position where you have to say you’re sorry, the good news is studies have shown that customers who receive a sincere apology are actually pretty likely to reconcile with the company.

Unfortunately, most companies don’t seem to know how or when to apologize correctly. That’s why I’ve outlined a few tips to help you apologize and rebuild bridges after your company screws up.

  • Act quickly – One of the biggest mistakes made by both Tiger Woods and Toyota (and hundreds of other companies in the past) was they waited too long to apologize. If either of them had just come out early on with a sincere apology, the stories wouldn’t have spun as far out of control as they did.
  • When you take too long to apologize, the people you’ve wronged start to think you don’t really care and that you aren’t really sorry. The longer you wait, the more hatred they build up toward you. If you know you’ve made a mistake, swallow your pride, and get out there and make an apology ASAP.

  • State what you’re apologizing for – It’s always funny to watch baseball players “apologize” for using steroids. They never say exactly what they’re apologizing for; instead, they talk in circles and allude to their misdeeds.
  • Don’t try to cover up what you did. Fess up to your mistakes in your apology. Be direct and to the point. You can discuss the reasons you made the mistake, apologize, and assure everyone that it won’t happen again.

  • Accept the blame … don’t pass it – Nobody likes the guy who can’t admit when he’s made a mistake. Passing the blame to someone else makes you look arrogant and insincere, and it doesn’t give customers any confidence that you won’t repeat the mistake in the future.
  • Always accept responsibility for your actions. Even if the mistake wasn’t entirely your fault, accepting blame is the first step to getting your customers to forgive you.

  • Don’t try to buy the victim off – Your customers want an apology…not a discount on their next purchase. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s often wise to give the people you’ve wronged something for their trouble, but that can’t be the only thing you do. Your attempt to placate the victims needs to be accompanied by a sincere apology to get the best results.
  • Ask for forgiveness – It’s always been said that America is a very forgiving nation, and I believe it’s true. You might not receive forgiveness right away, but if you sincerely own up to your mistakes and ask for forgiveness, there’s a good chance you’ll receive it at some point.
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This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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