Over the summer, Key Notes On Travel (KNOT) examined difficult clients and conversations with conflict resolution and communication expert Charmaine Hammond.
During her third webinar, which was presented in Q&A format, a travel advisor asked for tips and advice for crafting an apology.
Here's what Hammond advised...
"It needs to be sincere," Hammond suggested foremost. "If you’re dealing with someone who is upset, hurt or angry and [the apology] doesn’t feel sincere, it gives them one more thing to rant about."
THE CASE FOR APOLOGIZING
"I’m a firm believer in apologies. A lot of people say apologies mean you’re taking responsibility for something you didn’t do. I see apologies differently," said Hammond. "I can feel apologetic or sorry that somebody has experienced a specific situation. I didn’t cause it – I wasn’t involved in it – but I’m sorry they had to experience that. So part of it is being sincere or honest or integral. I also see apologies as being brief."
WHY ARE APOLOGIES SO HARD?
"Apologies are hard for a lot of us because they take you into a state of vulnerability," Hammond explained. "Sometimes we feel like we’ve got to own something that wasn’t ours to own. I've heard people frame [apologies] differently. They might say, ‘I’m sorry that you experienced this.’ I’ve also heard people say things like ‘I wish this situation had turned out differently.'"
TIPS FOR WRITTEN APOLOGIES
Relating back to her first tip, Hammond emphasized the importance of crafting an apology using language native to your personal vocabulary.
"What’s also important is it’s got to sound like your language. Sometimes when people write apologies they go into this very formal language that doesn’t sound like who you were on the phone or in your previous emails. Make sure it doesn’t sound like a form letter," she urged.
Hammond also lent caution to using scripted apologies.
"Some companies have [templates] you just copy and paste. I’ve seen and heard cases where people pasted the script and sent it addressed ‘Dear Client.' They forgot to put the person’s name in," Hammond said with a laugh. "So if you are using any kind of scripted apology, please make sure you personalize it and you proofread it, like, three times."
CHOOSING YOUR WORDS
Finally, Hammond offered a fail safe: "I always say read [the apology] out loud because your head will see things that aren't there or impose words that aren’t there, that you think are. So read it out loud. Always ask yourself, would I want to be on the receiving end of what I’m about to say or send? For me, that is the big benchmark question. If it isn’t what you’d want to hear or see, you have the chance to retype it or reconsider."
*Some of Charmaine Hammond's responses have been edited for clarity.
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