Follow Us:
CEO or Chief Groveling Officer?

Sorry on Survival / Australia DayA Project Manager came in last week to report a problem on a client site. I listened to her tell the story of what happened, then I said, “Okay, let me call the client and apologize.” The Project Manager insisted that she could handle it, but I continued, “Oh, I know you can handle it, but if the apology comes from me, it will mean more and you won’t get beat up so much.”

As the Chief Executive Officer at Matrix Group, I’m also the Chief Groveling Officer.

Think about it. When you’re at a store or dealing with a company over the phone over a screw-up, you want to talk to the manager or the owner.

If the manager is unavailable, you just get madder and madder. If the manager gets on the line, apologizes sincerely, and offers to do right by you, you calm down and you get over whatever it is that made you furious in the first place.

Heck, sometimes I calm down just because someone felt my pain and apologized.

Here are my rules when it comes to apologizing to clients.

Be sincere.

An insincere apology is worse than no apology. When I apologize, I mean it. I try to put myself in the client’s shoes and I try to feel their pain. I know that saying “I’m sorry” means something, even if it wasn’t me who actually made the error.

I listen and I let them yell.

Most of the time, unhappy people just want to be heard. They want someone to know how they were wronged. So I let clients vent and explain to me exactly what happened. I don’t cut them off, I don’t try to defend my team, and I don’t try to problem-solve early in  the conversation. I just shut up and listen.

Ask the client what they would like you to do.

It’s amazing how well this works. I ask clients what I can do to make things right by them, they tell me, I do it, and the sun rises again.

Follow-up.

Whenever possible, I follow-up with the client a week or two later. This shows that I haven’t forgotten, I’m staying vigilant to make sure we don’t screw up again, they are important and I’m making time for them. I get great feedback about how my team is doing and it’s another chance to connect with a client.

I called a company a few months ago because I was unhappy about a product I had received. I asked to speak to the owner and I was told that the owner never takes calls from customers. Really? But imagine if the owner had taken my call, apologized and offered to give me a discount on a future order, I would be a customer for life. Instead, I’ll NEVER do business with that company again.

As a business owner and CEO, sometimes you have to be someone’s doormat and punching bag. Comes with the territory. You might as well get good at it.

More from Women Grow Business:

Image: butupa via Flickr, Creative Commons

Founder/CEO and self-proclaimed Chief Troublemaker of Matrix Group International, Joanna Pineda is known for her visionary big-picture thinking and drive for excellence. Combining her broad liberal arts background and passion for technology, she started Matrix Group in 1999, today a leading interactive agency. As a trusted advisor, Joanna inspires and motivates her clients and employees alike to simply, “be better” with her mantra being: Do or Do Not. There is no try!


    1. Excellent way to handle that situation and you’re right, I’m sure it did mean more coming from you. I hope the lesson was not lost on your PM – I’ll bet not. As a fellow biz owner, I can totally relate to this statement:

      “As a business owner and CEO, sometimes you have to be someone’s doormat and punching bag. Comes with the territory. You might as well get good at it.” Amen!

      1
    Join the Small Business Forum Community
    The Small Business Forum is a place where small business owners can learn, ask questions, and share advice on how to succeed online