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Accepting Blame Makes Customers Happy

In customer support teams we’re trained to give empathy (and sometimes sympathy) although companies are reluctant to explicitly accept blame, presumably for fear of being taken to court.

The word “Sorry” is sometimes used, although this tends to be in standard templates and scripts. I am not a lawyer, however I suspect there is difference between saying sorry and accepting blame.

This came up recently as I read an apology letter from Waitrose (high-end UK supermarket) that contained the following interesting mixture of text:

“I have investigated this matter and would like to assure you that it has been taken up with the Partners concerned. I am very sorry that we have failed to provide you with the quality of service you expect from Waitrose.”

I think following points are interesting:

  1. Shifting the ultimate blame to “Partners”. I guess its capitalized to make it clear that’s someone else.
  2. Presumably the “we” is Waitrose and their Partners … although I suspect the same word would mean Waitrose alone as well.
  3. It seems the issue is closed in the “has been taken up”, presumably passing the complaint over. I probably don’t want more follow up personally, but might like some kind of assurance it will not happen again.

I must say the letter was signed in ink by a human (not a scanned signature graphic) and they also included some vouchers to appease me. So whilst this leaves me fairly happy, there were no “partners” visibly involved from my end and the lack of fully accepting blame might be factually legitimate however I don’t really care how they outsource internal tasks.

I propose companies to swallow their pride and accept blame upfront (irrespective of the consequences), with statements like “… we made [XYZ] mistakes here…” – as it will allow everyone to move on towards a solution.

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Categories: Customer Service
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