So, in the NFL, if the coach thinks the ref made a bad call, he can take a risk. He bets a time out and the refs review the tape. If the call was correct, the coach loses the time out. If the call was wrong, he gets it fixed.

You know what’s wrong with this system? The referees never apologize. They don’t say, "Upon reviewing the tape, we realized that we made a bad call. We’re really sorry." In fact, in addition to saying they’re sorry, they ought to give the coach a bonus time out as a way of rewarding him for his troubles.

If it’s hard to say you’re sorry when it’s your fault and when there is no money at stake, imagine how hard it is to say you’re sorry when neither is true.

And yet, if reading the constant stream of horrible customer service stories that cross my desk every day, that’s all anyone wants. A bonus time out, an apology and making it right. It is certainly, without any question at all, the cheapest marketing technique available today. Not to mention one that feels good in the long run. I wrote about this a bit in September, but it’s worth a refocus here.

But is an apology sincere?

Well, I can’t imagine how the following sentence could be false if uttered by anyone with a conscience, "I’m really sorry about the way you feel. We work really hard and do our best to avoid problems like this, but it’s obvious you feel mistreated and I want to fix it. I’m really sorry about all this."

It’s cheap, it works, and it’s the right thing. So why not do it?*

Ego, power and fear. Three lousy reasons. Time to get over it, come clean and grow.

*The big company readers say, "we have too many people to apologize to" to which I share this note from the founder of Mozy after some wide-scale screw ups:

As some of you may have noticed, the month of December and early
January was a challenging time for us. We were overwhelmed by the
demand for the Mozy backup service, and had a difficult time keeping
up. […]

So, to try and make up for the problems we’ve
experienced, and to thank you for hanging in there, we like to offer
you the follow options:

If you had a really frustrating experience, click here to get 3 months free service added to your account.

If you hit some glitches, but everything mostly worked out for you, click here to get 2 months free service added to your account.

If things went just fine this last month, click here to get 1 month free service added to your account.

But if you’d rather just let us know you’re doing okay and you don’t need the extra month of free service, click here to let us know.

you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to email me
personally. We’re here to protect your data – and we thank you for
hanging in there during our growing pains.

Founder, CEO
Mozy.com, Berkeley Data Systems, Inc.