The right way to say “Sorry!”

In the world of banking, mistakes sometimes happen. We know, because crafting apology communications is a challenge we often encounter here at MKP! We call them “Oops” communications, and over the years we’ve developed several key guidelines for dealing with errors. Read on, and learn how you can turn an unfortunate snafu into an opportunity to cement an even stronger relationship with your customers.

First, don’t overreact.

When an error is first discovered, it can be an unnerving moment for your team. Naturally, you want to pull out all the stops to get the issue addressed as soon as possible! And once it’s fixed, you want to tell the world that everything is back up and running. So, you consider posting a general apology statement on social media or a contrite blurb on your website.

But wait a second – before you inform 100% of your audience that this glitch has occurred, is it possible to identify the people who have been directly impacted, and issue a more targeted apology instead?

At MKP, we often find ourselves in the role of “cooler heads prevailing” when we deal with errors of this sort. Our first rule of apology is to limit your communication to the affected customers whenever reasonably possible, and save the global apology for situations when an entire customer group may be affected. Apologize sincerely to the right people, and avoid apologizing more than you need to.

Take true responsibility for what happened.

Banking errors commonly occur during the automated processing of transactions or customer records, so many apology letters talk about a “computer error” or a “processing error.” While often true to a certain extent, it can also end up sounding like this: “We’re sorry, but this wasn’t really our fault – our computers did it!”

Don’t get us wrong – it’s ok to point out a processing glitch as long as you also accept a more personal level of responsibility. Own up to your bank’s mistake. Take the customer’s point of view, and double-down on your commitment to protecting the integrity of all account records and transactions.

This leads us to our second rule of apology: spend more time talking about your solution to the issue than the issue itself. Your language doesn’t have to be specific: if the real problem is a lapse in quality control or programming, tell customers that you’re taking immediate corrective steps. Show them that mistakes of this sort are totally unacceptable, and you’re not going to allow them!

Consider a goodwill gesture when possible.

As we mentioned above, it’s always a smart idea to hunt for ways to narrow your apology to customers who have been directly impacted. By limiting your audience, you also gain a second benefit: you may find that it’s affordable to include a small token of appreciation, particularly when the mistake impacts high-value customers. A discount on a banking service, a waived fee, even a Starbucks or other Gift Card, will go a long way toward smoothing even the most ruffled feathers.

What’s the end result of this strategy? Customers will appreciate your honesty, your zeal and your responsiveness. Remember, your determination to eradicate mistakes is the single most effective way to demonstrate a superior commitment to customer service. So, think about your next “oops” as an opportunity – and one day, the people you apologize to may turn into your most loyal customers.

MKP communications inc. is a New York City based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, combined with flawless execution, exclusively for financial services clients.