Companies seem to be apologizing a lot these days, as a result of public missteps. But most companies issue them as if they were just checking the box. They feel obligatory and void of real feeling or thought behind them. That's a shame because how you respond to a mistake can be a big opportunity for you.

Research shows when customers have a bad experience or complaint handled effectively by a company, they actually become more loyal than before the situation occurred. 

Apologies are a great starting point to making up for expectations that weren't met. So skip delivering the standard apology that will be forgotten in two minutes because it doesn't make a real impact.

Instead, seize the moment to deliver a remarkable experience you're customers want to tell their friends about. As a result, your "I'm sorry" will draw your customers closer to you, and demonstrate that your words aren't just lip service.

Here are three examples of companies who transformed challenging situations into remarkable experiences through their apologies.

1. KFC's use of humor.

You can't be a chicken restaurant and not have chicken. That's just wrong. Maybe even a form of blasphemy even. But that's exactly what happened to KFC in the UK and Ireland a few weeks ago, causing them to close nearly 900 of its stores for a few days.

In response the crisis, the company posted signs on all the stores explaining the supply chain issue.

But it wasn't until the company turned lemons into lemonade with a cheeky full-page ad in local newspapers did the tide start to turn from them in the hearts and minds of their frustrated customers.

Not only did people get a good laugh out of it, but KFC may have actually won some customers with their effort.

Don't be afraid to use a little humor in your quest to make things up to your customer.

2. Emirates' over the top gesture.

A few years ago, my early morning flight out of Shanghai was canceled. Thankfully, the airline was able to book everyone on another flight just before midnight. As I prepared to settle in a for a long day at the airport, I was delighted by Emirates Airlines' way of "making things right."

They returned every passengers' luggage, then shuttled us over to a luxury hotel where they'd booked us each a room where we could sleep, freshen up, and hang out. They even gave us access to both the lunch and dinner buffets before we boarded the shuttle again to go catch our flight for the evening.

Each step of the journey was detailed in a letter where the airline apologized for the inconvenience of the delayed flight and mapped out the itinerary of how they would accommodate us at their expense over the next twelve hours.

I've had multiple flight cancellations, and even had to sleep in an airport because of one. But the other airlines just canceled the flights via email or announcements over the loudspeaker, with a "sorry for your inconvenience." No bueno.

Emirates apologized--and delivered a thoughtful experience I'll never forget. The experience changed the narrative from why I showed up a day late to my destination from being a frustrating one to a delightful one.

When unfortunate circumstances occur, don't just do the minimum. Look for ways to create defining moments that will change the way your customers remember an incident.

3. PDQ's dramatic apology video.

PDQ is a business-to-business software company that recently had an issue when their networks ran more slowly than they or their users would have liked.

As opposed to just sending out a simple "sorry the network is slow, we're working on it" email, the company crafted a beautiful and dramatic video to acknowledge their performance wasn't up to standard, and to explain what they were doing to fix it:


Their customers loved the video and expressed their support for the company in the YouTube comments.

Apologies don't always have to be written statements. Sure, those can be issued quickly, but when you change the medium and add in personality, you can deliver one that has a grander impact.

Everything in your business has the opportunity to be remarkable. Even the stuff you feel is mundane. 

When you view every customer touch-point as an opportunity to delight, you'll see the endless opportunities to deliver remarkable experiences to your customers.

The changes don't all have to happen overnight. Start small, and work your way up. Soon you'll have transformed your business by enhancing the way your customer experience it.

Published on: Mar 15, 2018