The Art of the Apology

Picture: Gerd Altmann via

Picture: Gerd Altmann via

In automotive customer service, you are the middleman/woman that stands between the customers at the front of the house and the company you work for and its various teams in the back of the house.

You get to be the friendly face of the company, representing it and working hard to make your customers feel good when they come to your automotive business looking for automotive products, services, or even spare parts.

Unfortunately, this role of yours is a double-edged blade. While you get to be the messenger who sends good news to customers and put smiles on their faces, you also have to be the person who sometimes has to deliver bad news instead. Added to that is the fact that you’ll have to be the one who manages your customers disappointment, and sometimes even anger.

When the situation gets delicate, it’s very important for you to remain diplomatic, and sometimes that means apologizing to your customers for not being able to fulfil their needs.

A proper apology consists of an entire set of behaviours that goes well beyond just saying “I’m sorry”.


Do Not Argue

For starters, it is always important to remember that no matter how angry the customer gets, you must never argue back at them or issue non-apologies. As an automotive customer care professional, losing your temper is the worst possible thing you could do, especially since you are acting as the face of the company.


Also bad is issuing non-apologies, which are basically insincere apologies that make the situation worse because customers interpret it as you not caring about their issue at all.


Listen carefully

When customers are expressing their emotions, be it disappointment or anger, be sure to listen carefully and attentively. Being a good listener not only helps you understand exactly how the customer feels, it also gives you a chance to read between the lines and sensing ways to help the customer feel better about their predicament.


Acknowledge your customer’s feelings

When listening to your customer vent their feelings, be sure to acknowledge what they’re feeling. One way to de-escalate the situation is to simply acknowledge how they feel, saying things along the lines of “Yes, you have every right to be angry” or “Yes, I can see that you’re disappointed”. Sometimes, a simple acknowledgement of a customer’s feelings is all it takes.

Take responsibility

If the issue happened while the customer’s automobile was under the care of your automotive business, it is important to take responsibility of the issue at hand. There is nothing more annoying than a customer complaining to a workshop or service business, only to feel like the business does not think it’s their problem at all.


Offer explanations, not excuses

When a customer finds out that there’s a problem with their car, truck, or motorcycle, they’ll be experiencing many emotions at one time. During that process, they’ll be looking for justifications from you. When that happens, you need to ensure that you’re able to provide them with explanations and not excuses.


Nobody ever benefits from people making excuses. Instead, deliver the truth to your customers, but do so in an understanding and diplomatic way. This is where your social and communication skills is heavily relied on, because a good automotive customer service professional is able to deliver bad news with explanations in such a way that the customer is able to satisfied with it.


Thank the customer

At the end of it all, be sure to thank the customer. At some point, your customer would have provided you with their patience and understanding, as well as acceptance of your explanation.


Final Note

One important thing to remember is that when you’re in a situation where you are required to apologize to your automotive customers, it usually means that you are in damage control mode. What that means is that your focus not on fixing the past, because that’s beyond your control. Instead, your focus should be on minimizing the negative outcomes of the situation.