How to Apologize as a Small Business Owner


My Apologies:

Photographer friends - Hello!

You know, this week I made a mistake. I have an eye surgery scheduled for a few days from now and pushed a gallery edit through a lot faster than I should have. When my clients saw the images, for the first time since I've been in business, they weren't happy with the skin tones. My histogram told me that they were fine. But, I went through each image to go over it a second time, fine-tuning spot areas to make my clients happy and simultaneously, I  worked on the art of the email apology.

I know that an apology in any area of life should contain a few specific things: specificity, promptness, responsibility, and reconciliation. Finding an appropriate way to work all of that into an email while also conveying integrity and not sounding like I was making excuses was important. So, as I wrote my apology, I thought I'd cover a few tips for a thorough apology email strategy.

Untitled photo

1.  Apologize Promptly.

Of course, I felt ashamed that I didn't meet their expectations, but rather than wallowing in that, I moved quickly to apologize. When we apologize quickly, we can begin to fix the relationship. These client relationships are how our businesses are built. Positive word of mouth is so powerful; however, negative word of mouth can destroy everything. When we make a mistake, it is so important to own it and begin the repair process.

2.  Apologize with Specificity.

Recognizing specifically what you did incorrectly is important for both parties to be in understanding of each other and in a place of clear communication. When I wrote an email, I was very specific about the mistake I had made.

3. Take Responsibility.

In the words of your apology, be sure to take responsibility for the mistake. I said, "I am really sorry that my first edit didn't meet your expectations." Be careful on these word choices. A few minced words can really change the blame. Saying something like, "I'm sorry you're not happy with x." places the blame on the client's emotional health rather than your mistake. It sort of translates as "Its too bad that you're such a pain" which is definitely not what you want to convey! Choose words that clarity your mistake, but also your responsibility and commitment to fix it.

4. Reconciliation and Repair.

The next step is to quality what you can do to repair the relationship or right the mistake. I gave my clients a few ideas on what I could do. They had suggestions too. They wanted further creative edits that would take lots of time. I suggested we start with a basic re-edit of all of the images. From there, I'll let them choose one or two images that can get a creative special treatment edit without extra charges because of their trouble in not being happy. I'm sure I'll also be sharing a coupon for a few free prints in addition as a surprise at the end of our edits. When you work on repairing the mistake, its also important to work to restore trust and the relationship.

Sample Text:

The apology part of my email started this way. 

I am really sorry that the first edit didn't meet your expectations, but I want to be sure that you are happy with the final product. So, I've re-edited each image in your gallery individually. I have re-edited skin corrections and adjusted...

Like what you read? Feel free to share this advice or leave comments below. You can continue to check out other advice blog posts for small business owners and photographers on the blog HERE.

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