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How to Apologize to a Customer When Something Goes Wrong



A tired employee is updating shipping orders late at night at a textbook brokerage. They make a mistake in the code and accidentally ship outdated management textbooks to an important customer. Three days later, classes have begun, and with demanding course loads, the students already feel behind. Many are seeking immediate replacements. Cue the angry phone calls and emails.

Thankfully, it is possible to repair the damage done. In fact, if this delicate situation is managed correctly, the company might actually come out ahead with its customers, a phenomenon known as the service recovery paradox.

The service recovery paradox is a phenomenon in which a customer who experiences a problem with a product or service, but has that problem effectively resolved, is more likely to have a positive impression of the company than a customer who never experienced any problems. Essentially, when a company is able to effectively recover from a service failure, the customer’s satisfaction can actually increase beyond what it would have been if the failure had never happened.

How can your company use this paradox to its advantage? Every department in a company can make a mistake that sends out ripples. It all comes down to your apology message — and how you document, memorialize, and share the apology process both internally and with external stakeholders.

How to Craft an Apology Message

1. Restore lost value.

Your customer believes the balance of “fairness” has been thrown off by this problem. They want to know what you’re going to do to restore the perception of lost value they have incurred. Offer to repair the situation to secure the attention and trust of your customers. If you don’t lead with this step, the rest of the message won’t be nearly as effective.

In the textbook situation, examples could include sending additional resources related to the book that provide additional learning value. Perhaps there are videos, simulations, or other materials the school or students didn’t pay for that enhance the learning experience. The key is providing something that has perceived high value to the customer, but lower cost to you.

2. Acknowledge responsibility.

This doesn’t need to be overly complicated, but it is critical that you distinguish between offering an excuse for what happened and accepting responsibility for the mistake.

After the example coding mistake, pointing blame at another entity, like a supplier or distributor, would cause distrust and derail the apology. Your message has to clearly say that you take full responsibility for ensuring that the problem is resolved in their best interest. That your aim is to regain their full faith and confidence in you as a partner. And that you’re taking proactive and preventive steps to protect them from any further issues.

3. Explain the problem.

Customers want to know you have been able to precisely identify the problem and its root cause. This increases confidence that your proposed fixes will protect them from the same problem happening again.

In the case above, the textbook broker should explain that the code, while always functional, was referencing an outdated set of tables in the company’s database because of a manual coding error. You can acknowledge the mistake, and because you told customers that you’re creating multiple safeguards to fix the problem — tailored to the specific issue — the apology is much more likely to be received well.

4. Describe how you will fix the issue.

In this step, you are specifically explaining how you have fixed the problem and describing what measures you put in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

In the textbook example, this could include performing random audits of shipping orders to ensure additional, manual verification, as well as creating redundancies in the coding software that provide further checks on orders — such as checking whether a book going out is more than a year or two old, which could mean it’s a mistake and warrants extra attention. It could also include changing your process to not perform updates during peak busy seasons.

5. Express your regret.

The actual expression of regret (the “we’re sorry” part) is most effective once you’ve sufficiently addressed the concerns above, making your expression of regret even more sincere because it’s backed up with a lot of action. Customers respond better to a sincere apology. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that your customer’s business was damaged, so acknowledge those effects.

In the textbook example, the broker should say something along the lines of, “We are sorry for the disruption to your business during a busy season for you. Hopefully, you can see and feel our commitment to retaining your confidence and trust. We apologize to both your company and your customers.”

This kind of statement conveys true regret and sincerity while also stressing that the problem is being addressed.

Sample Apology Message

Here’s an example of an apology message to use as a guide. In this case, a company is apologizing to a customer about a software outage that happened during one of their busiest times. It covers all of the critical parts you want to include in an apology message.

I want to attempt to repair any possible problems this outage caused for you, your team, or your employees. First, I have been approved to provide your company with a one-month refund, twice the length of your benefits sign-up period. It is an expanded refund in recognition that this happened at a peak time for your company. I have also directed our customer service team to manually check all sign-ups that occurred after the software came back online to be sure they were captured accurately. I will let you know the outcome as soon as it is complete, no longer than one week from now.

The software outage was entirely our fault. It should not have happened at all, let alone during such a critical time for your business. We take full responsibility and are committed to ensuring it will not happen again.

I fully regret that this outage occurred, and our teams are making the necessary changes to make sure it does not happen again. Our outages should be reserved for planned downtime, with advance communication, and we regret that we failed on both accounts in this situation.

To let you know what occurred, your software went down after a major power outage at one of our data centers. Your workload was rerouted to our other data centers, as part of our backup plan and service agreement. However, the second center your content was assigned to was down due to preventive maintenance and a hardware update. This caused your system to go down for a period as the system reconfigured to find the next alternative for your workload. We have now updated our redundancy system to avoid anything like this in the future.

I am exceptionally sorry for this outage, and as soon as I knew about it, I was in constant communication with our technical teams until it was resolved. On behalf of our company, I would like to apologize not only to you, but to your leadership team and all affected employees.

Document, Memorialize, and Share Your Apology Process

It is critical to explicitly document the apology effort made to the customer. That way, if someone makes another mistake in the future, the company can turn to an objective framework to craft a new apology message. By learning from the company’s past, your employees can avoid what didn’t work and provide better responses to future service failures.

Your apology process should also be shared and shown to outside stakeholders. This phenomenon, known as boundary spanning, is critical to the service recovery paradox because it not only shows vulnerability from the organization, but also shows other customers that the company can be relied upon in times of distress.

Businesses are bound to make mistakes and disappoint their customers. But how you build your apology message and your careful attention to executing it appropriately can make the difference between losing those customers or increasing their loyalty.


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Managing people

Four Effective Tips to Improve Labor Management in Companies



Businesses worldwide are always on the hunt for ways to improve their processes and add more efficiency to day-to-day functions. Of course, labor management is one of the major aspects of every company that demands continuous attention and improvement.

Every business understands that effective labor management is essential when it comes to increasing the productivity, safety, and efficiency of every project. The managers bear all burden to ensure that the labor is working effectively to meet the needs of supply and demand chains.

Here are some effective ways to improve labor management in your company for the best of your business.

1. Use Standardized KPIs

It can be hard to hold someone accountable for their performance when there is no evidence to back up the claims. In such circumstances, the labor deserving of praise may be left out, and those who need improvement may continue to waste company time and resources. Of course, such practices can cost you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Hence, smart companies worldwide are using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as a tool for worker motivation and accountability. These indicators help them better understand why certain standardized goals exist and their role in making the company succeed.

2. Incorporate a Software

Managers have a lot on their shoulders in addition to managing the workforce. A few people cannot keep an eye on everyone throughout the day. They need Kaizen Software to find the best solution for labor management. This way, the managers can find time to pay attention to many more important matters.

Efficient management software is being used worldwide due to its countless benefits. They offer security, better communication, and enhanced tracking to make your business more efficient. Hence, your business will have a better opportunity to grow and bloom.

3. Ensure Safety at the Workplace

Every workspace has its own challenges. However, everyone can agree that industrial workers have more challenges when it comes to safety. After all, they are surrounded by heavy machinery and face increased chances of accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. Hence, it must be a top priority to make your workplace safer.

You can start by looking into the hazards in your workspace and minimizing them one by one. In addition, it is also important to ensure that all your workers have access to safety gear at all times. Caution can save more lives than building an elaborate regime to care for injured workers.

Managing industrial workforce

4. Keep Workers Posted

Whether a construction site or a chemical industry, there can be new hazards and precautions for workers every day. A little negligence in the workplace can lead to a regrettable accident. Hence, it is always a good idea to keep your workers informed about current events.

Knowledge about company procedures and safety rules can reduce insecurity among workers and increase their efficiency. It is best to let your workers know that all their questions will be answered. This way, they can feel more comfortable seeking your guidance instead of finding out by trial and error.

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Managing people

10 Key Strategies for Managing and Engaging your Employees



Effective employee management and engagement are crucial for small businesses to foster a positive work environment, maximize productivity, and retain top talent. Small business owners need to prioritize their employees’ well-being, provide growth opportunities, and create a culture that promotes engagement and collaboration.

Here, we will explore ten strategies and practices for employee management and engagement in small businesses.

1. Clear Communication and Expectations

Clear communication is vital to set expectations and ensure alignment between the business and its employees. Regularly communicate goals, priorities, and performance expectations to your team. Provide feedback and recognition for their achievements and address any concerns or issues promptly. Encourage an open-door policy and create channels for open dialogue and feedback.

2. Training and Development Opportunities

Investing in training and development opportunities for your employees demonstrates your commitment to their growth and success. Identify areas where employees can benefit from additional skills or knowledge and provide relevant training programs. This can include workshops, conferences, online courses, or mentoring programs. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and support employees’ professional development.

3. Employee Recognition and Rewards

Recognizing and rewarding employee contributions is essential for fostering motivation and engagement. Implement a recognition program that acknowledges outstanding performance, teamwork, and achievements. This can include verbal praise, written appreciation, or tangible rewards such as bonuses or incentives. Regularly celebrate milestones and accomplishments to show appreciation for your employees’ hard work.

4. Work-Life Balance and Well-being

Promote a healthy work-life balance and prioritize employee well-being. Offer flexible work arrangements when possible, such as remote work options or flexible scheduling. Encourage breaks and time off to prevent burnout. Provide resources and support for physical and mental well-being, such as access to wellness programs or employee assistance programs. Show genuine care and support for your employees’ overall well-being.

5. Foster a Collaborative and Inclusive Culture

Create a collaborative and inclusive culture that values diversity and fosters teamwork. Encourage open communication, idea sharing, and collaboration among employees. Foster an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and included. Embrace diverse perspectives and leverage the unique strengths of your team members to drive innovation and growth.

Getting feedback on employees

6. Performance Management and Feedback

Establish a robust performance management system to set clear goals, provide regular feedback, and evaluate employee performance. Implement regular performance reviews to discuss progress, identify development areas, and set new objectives. Provide constructive feedback that focuses on both strengths and areas for improvement to support employee growth.

7. Empowerment and Autonomy

Encourage autonomy and empower employees to take ownership of their work. Delegate responsibilities and provide them with the necessary resources and authority to make decisions. Encourage innovation and creativity by allowing employees to explore new ideas and approaches. Trust their expertise and provide guidance when needed.

8. Career Growth and Advancement

Support your employees’ career growth and advancement within the organization. Provide opportunities for skill development, such as stretch assignments or cross-functional projects. Offer mentorship programs or coaching to help employees navigate their career paths. Create a clear path for advancement and communicate the potential growth opportunities available to them.

9. Team Building and Social Activities

Organize team-building activities and social events to foster strong relationships among your employees. This can include off-site retreats, team lunches, or recreational activities. Encourage team bonding and camaraderie to enhance collaboration and create a positive work culture.

10. Continuous Improvement

Establish a culture of continuous feedback and improvement. Encourage regular check-ins between managers and employees to discuss progress, challenges, and goals. Solicit feedback from employees on processes, policies, and workplace initiatives. Actively listen to their suggestions and make necessary improvements to enhance the work environment.

Employee management meeting


Effective employee management and engagement are critical for small businesses to thrive. By prioritizing clear communication, providing training and development opportunities, recognizing and rewarding employee contributions, promoting work-life balance and well-being, fostering a collaborative and inclusive culture, and implementing additional strategies such as performance management, empowerment, career growth, team building, and continuous feedback, small business owners can create a positive and engaging work environment.

Investing in your employees’ success and happiness not only benefits them individually but also contributes to the overall success and growth of your small business.

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Growing a Business

Secure your startup’s future by watching the big corporations



Welcome to Startups Weekly. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Saturday morning. Starting next week, it moves to Fridays at 12 pm PT.

As a startup founder, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could predict the future a little bit more than you currently do? It turns out you can: By paying close attention to what the behemoths in your space are doing. Last year’s AWS Re:Invent set the direction for a lot of what Amazon is doing this year — including where it invests. Re:Invent 2023 is coming up soon.

Google I/O revealed that Google is investing heavily in computational photography, large language models and all things AI. As a startup, you can use these data points and draw a line into the future: Can you align yourself with the big-picture trends? Are you missing anything?

This week, at Apple’s worldwide developer conference WWDC, the company took the wraps off its AR/VR headset. Priced at $3,500 it won’t be a commercial success, but as a startup, you’d be very silly not to pay attention: It is a complete game-changer for startups.

Startup valuations are taking a pounding

After a frothy few years of don’t-call-it-a-bubble, it seems like the inevitable market correction is here. We’ve seen wave after wave of tech layoffs, and it seems like investors are starting to take a more realistic view of their investments, starting to mark them down.

Marking down an investment doesn’t necessarily mean drama; it refers to the common process of adjusting the value of an investment asset to reflect its current market value. In the case of VC, that often happens if the valuation turned out to be a bit on the optimistic side. Investors will typically mark down investments to avoid overstating their portfolio’s worth. In a nutshell, it’s best practice to acknowledge potential losses before they are realized. That’s what is happening now — and perhaps should have been happening for a while, as Rebecca argued late last year, when she noticed that a bunch of startups had quietly marked down their own valuations.

Jeremy Abelson and Jacob Sonnenberg, both at Irving Investors, argue that if you haven’t yet, you probably won’t grow into your 2023 investment valuation.

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Just in the past few weeks week, we had another handful of examples of this:

Life is a highway

The EV space is exploding (sometimes literally) at the moment, and there seems to be a huge amount of stuff in motion in the world of transportation.

Mercedes just got permission from the state of California to start selling a car that can self-drive without having to hold the wheel or look at the road. No doubt this’ll set Elon Musk’s little temperature gauge to “furious” as the company’s cars do attract a federal tax break but come up short on the self-driving front in its native California.

Price is often brought up as a major hurdle for EVs, but Volvo snuck out a small SUV that can cruise along for 275 miles and has a sub-$35,000 price tag. That still isn’t pocket change, but it’s a lot cheaper than a lot of the EVs on the road. Meanwhile, Fiat showed off a city vehicle it’s working on that made both Harri and myself squee with delight.

Safety is another theme across TechCrunch’s transportation coverage: Smarter cars should, in theory, mean safer roads. In practice, Waymo had to explain why one of its autonomous Jaguars ran down a dog in San Francisco last month, and Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed a rule that means all new cars and trucks would need to have emergency systems that “would have to be capable of stopping and avoiding contact with a vehicle at speeds of up to 62 miles per hour.”

Remember what we said about legislation driving innovation and opportunities for startup? That proposed NHTSA rule falls into that category. Thought experiment: Could your company tap into that shift somehow?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Apple sets the pace

While Apple isn’t really a startup, it is the world’s first $3 trillion market cap company, so in a week where our servers have been melting from all of the exciting news that came out of the WWDC keynote, I wanted to highlight some of the things that are most interesting to startups and startup founders.

One thing worth paying attention to is the Apple Design Awards, which often foreshadow large trends in design and user experience best practices — along with what the Cupertino-based software giant celebrates at the moment.

Another trend worth paying attention to from Apple is its focus on health and safety: It released a check-In feature to ensure people get home safe, a nudity filter to shield you from unsolicited real-life aubergine emoji and mental health mood tracking. All of that is specific to this WWDC, but it continues a trend: Fall detection, car crash detection, ECG to detect heart events, and lots of other health and safety indicators. It has made it easier to find and disable AirTags that might be used for stalking, and a Safety Check and lockdown mode, which takes your iPhone off the radar to get away from an abusive partner (more from our security team here).

As a startup, all of the above should give you pause for thought: There are big trends at play here that Apple clearly wants to continue to invest in. Apple has gone heavy into the privacy of your data, and leaning into security, safety, mental and physical health and more. Build something truly innovative in these spaces, and you have the world’s most valuable company validating that these are problems worth solving.

Image Credits: Apple

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