I’m sorry

On a recent trip, my wife and I stopped at a name-brand hotel in Virginia – our hotel of choice on most road trips simply because things are always just right. In other words, they’re consistent from location to location.Irate Customer

As we were checking out the following morning, I mentioned to the desk clerk that, among several minor problems with the room, our hair dryer had a broken plug. I could see inside the plug and it appeared there could be a short. Understanding I rarely need a hair dryer, I felt mentioning this would be a service to the next guest. I expected it would also be a prime safety concern for the hotel and a means to avoid a lawsuit.

The desk clerk responded to my four concerns with, “I’ll let them know.” There was no apology, no “I’m sorry,” no attempt to offer me a discount or a free Hawaiian vacation – not that I was actually expecting that.

I used to hear “I’m sorry” all the time when a business transaction, service, or purchase didn’t work out well or when I returned something to the store because of a technical problem or manufacturer’s defect.

No more. Recently, while trying to correct a problem with an overbilling on one of our phone services, I didn’t hear “I’m sorry you had that problem.” All I heard was, “I’ll credit your account.” I wasn’t irate or unfriendly, and don’t think I did anything to make the customer service rep upset.

When our 6-month old refrigerator (still under warranty, thank heavens) went on the fritz several weeks ago, I didn’t hear “I’m sorry you had that problem.” However, when the customer service rep suggested I go back to the store to find a replacement, I said, “No. You tell us what comes closest to what we had.”

The rep actually (and cheerfully) took ownership of the problem, researched similar models, and called back within an hour with model information and delivery date. That response was as good as an “I’m sorry,” and maybe better.

When I begin one of my rants and hop up on my soapbox I never know if the problem is me and my yearning to help businesses understanding the critical importance of creating exceptional experiences at every step along the way or if it’s universal –  a sign of the times.

I hope it’s not a sign of our times. I think we’d all feel better if we started he hearing “I’m sorry” more frequently. I suspect hearing it more often may have something to do with saying it more.

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