"I'm sorry." Simple words with powerful impact. But many businesses seem tongue-tied when trying to utter the phrase.
Bad stuff happens. People can be forgiving — if your are forthright in admitting you screwed up.
Saying you are sorry shouldn't be that hard. An online order gets mixed up. A store clerk is rude. A public water source is contaminated. Own the problem. Fix the problem. Say you are sorry.
The more difficult exercise is actually being sorry. If people think your apology is mere lip service, they won't take it seriously. However, if you back up your apology with appropriate action, they will see your apology as sincere.
Like so many other forms of communication, the apology is best expressed by showing your are sorry. When faced with a botched order, many businesses follow Starbucks' example by giving customers a free drink card. But sometimes that's not enough.