Apologies That Mean What They Say

Too many corporate apologies feel as if they have been plucked from the Hallmark card rack rather than genuine statements of remorse.The corporate apology is threadbare, but still necessary. What is dying on the vine is customer and stakeholder patience because too many corporate apologies are disingenuous and lack promised follow-through.

After a misdeed, words are important. But what makes the difference is action. Especially if you promise to do something to prevent a recurrence of your misdeed.

When a crisis hits, corporate executives want to make the bleeding stop. They often are willing to say almost anything to staunch the flow of bad news.

However, many executives fail to recognize that a crisis is an opportunity. Instead of a moment for panic, a crisis response is a chance to demonstrate your core values, to show what you really believe.

If you are a health care organization and say patients come first, a crisis is a chance to prove it. If you are a retailer and say customers are always right, a crisis is a chance to affirm it.

Too many corporate apologies are canned or theatrical performances. Executives go through the motions, saying the right words, but without conviction. Their lackluster or half-hearted follow-up is the tell.

Apologies are those unintended teachable moments that reveal to customers, stakeholders and employees whether you are trustworthy or just another hollow suit.

A blogger recently asked whether the corporate apology is dead. My answer: no, it just looks like the walking dead. Zombie apologies can do more harm than good. Apologize like you really mean it. Then take strong actions that show you meant what you said in your apology.