Stop Saying 'Sorry for the Inconvenience' - Say This Instead

Chris Thomas
September 27, 2021
Read time:
6
Minutes
Customer Service
Chris Thomas

Your customers have heard it countless times:

'Sorry for the inconvenience!'

At best, this phrase is a lazy token gesture.

At worst, it can make customers feel ignored or disrespected.

So, what's a better way to apologise for a mistake?

How do you ensure your customers still respect you, even if they're getting in touch to complain?

In this article, we'll be offering you a simple solution. You'll learn:

  • Why customers hate stock support phrases like 'sorry for the inconvenience'
  • Why this kind of statement makes your company look bad
  • The most effective alternative for getting your customers smiling once again

Let's get started!

Why do customers dislike the phrase 'sorry for the inconvenience'?

If someone gets in touch with your company following a negative customer experience, chances are that they're in a state of frustration or disappointment.

They might even be experiencing heightened emotions like anger or irritation.

As such, they want to express their negative feelings and see your brand taking ownership of the issue to mitigate their problem.

They want to see someone acknowledge the inconvenience caused.

While customer support teams who use phrases like 'sorry for the inconvenience' might think they're addressing the issue, they're only scraping the surface.

In reality, customers feel sidelined. Here's why:

'Sorry for the inconvenience' is lazy and impersonal

The phrase 'sorry for the inconvenience' not only seems lazy, but if your customer service team get into the habit of using such canned phrases, they can actually become lazier in turn.

With 58% of American customers switching companies because of bad customer service, you don’t want your team to fall into this trap.

People complain for a variety of reasons, and they want to see a proactive approach to customer support in response.

But if your team offers the same apology for every mistake, they’ll soon learn not to fully acknowledge the customers’ issues. 

Patience and authenticity are hugely important for fostering empathetic understanding. 

Lazy canned responses limit your ability to create more positive relationships.

'Sorry for the inconvenience' doesn't suggest acknowledgement and ownership

A professional customer support representative will always strive to cater to your customers' needs - whatever the contact channel

If your customer has a problem, they'll always be ready with the right words, addressing the impact of the problem before offering a helping hand.

In short, the best contact agents go as far as making the customers' problems their own.

Apologies like 'sorry for the inconvenience' don't broadcast a dedication to this kind of customer care.

This is because these stock phrases distance your brand from the blame by using passive voice and impersonal language.

It's the same with other common phrases too. For example:

'Thank you for making us aware of the issue.'

'We hope to solve the problem as soon as possible.'

At first, statements like these might seem like a smart move. After all, they limit your sense of liability.

In reality, you're annoying your customer even more.

You're also missing the opportunity to show that you care - whether through more sincere apologies or an expression of true empathy.

If a business delivers excellent customer service, 78% of customers are happy to do repeat business with them - even following a mistake. 

It’s proof that businesses that go the extra mile see great rewards. 

'Sorry for the inconvenience' lacks urgency 

Some customer service teams will use phrases like 'sorry for the inconvenience' to avoid making further promises.

Nevertheless, your customers want to hear a resolution timeframe when they get in touch.

When you use phrases like 'sorry for the inconvenience', it suggests that your team doesn't care about solving your customer's problems in a timely manner. 

Of course, this might well be an inference on your customer’s part. 

That said, customer perception is very delicate, and one wrong move can easily lower your customer’s opinion of your company. 

'Sorry for the inconvenience isn't actually an apology

Ultimately, people want to see someone take responsibility for the issue they're facing.

That said, most of the issues your customer support staff deal with are nothing to do with them!

However, when someone gets in touch to express their opinion over poor customer service, someone has to take the brunt of it.

Customers usually feel ignored when they hear phrases like 'sorry for the inconvenience'. 

This is because the phrase is commonly followed up by a frustrating caveat, i.e. '...but we're doing all we can to help.'

This is just deflection - it undermines your so-called apology even further!

How to say 'sorry for the inconvenience' the right way

Now that we've reached a better understanding of why you should retire this kind of phrase, how do you find an appropriate alternative?

Whatever the communication channel, how do you demonstrate sympathy and admit fault without seeming incompetent?

The answer lies in not apologising at all!

At least, not at first.

Let's explain a little deeper, looking at a couple of scenarios.

The best phrase to use when responding to complaints

If you’re speaking to a person over the phone and they’re looking to make a complaint, you should first address their issue by repeating it back to them for clarification.

For example, you might want to say something along the lines of:

'So, just to clarify for my records, you're getting in touch because of two consecutive late deliveries?'

Then, say the following with sincerity:

'That must be incredibly frustrating.' 

Then, keep quiet. Show patience. Allow them to speak.

Listen to what your customer has to say. 

It might sound all too simple, but this tactic gives them the space to express their opinions.

It allows you to demonstrate authentic listening too.

Most importantly, fully acknowledging frustration before saying sorry shows you've understood the impact this issue has had. 

This is a great method to adopt regardless of the customer’s contact method too - whether you’re using live chat or even video customer support

Just remember to avoid a deflecting clause too.

Instead of saying 'we're incredibly sorry, but we're doing all we can to help.'

Say: 'We're incredibly sorry. We're doing all we can to help.'

It's a minor distinction, but it makes all the difference during difficult interactions.

The best phrase to use when you're about to deliver bad news to your customers

The above process even works if you have to deliver bad news to a broad audience.

For example, say you're a SaaS company that's writing an apology email to your customers about a short notice service disruption.

First, address the customers' feelings before your apology. 

Demonstrate that you are aware of their frustration. 

Depending on the issue at hand, you could even invite them to express themselves through a website engagement tool

Perhaps a feedback form, support address, or even a phone number. 

Doing so will allow them to vent. From there, you'll have the space to apologise more effectively.

Either way, avoiding an immediate apology allows you to demonstrate true acknowledgement.

Let's explore why this tactic works in a little more detail.

Why you should hold back on immediate apologies

The tactic of acknowledging inconvenience is all about putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.

By holding off on the apology and addressing their disappointment in an empathetic way, you're proving that you're not trying to brush them off with a pacifying statement.

There are many reasons why phrases like 'sorry for the inconvenience' come off in this light. Let's take a look now. 

Immediate apologies go over your customer's head

Your customers know that they'll receive an apology when they get in touch - an apology designed to deal with their issue quickly and efficiently.

As such, immediately offering an apology is a wasted listening opportunity - and a waste of words.

It's far better to give them the space to express themselves. 

In turn, you can demonstrate empathy before jumping in with an apology.

Immediate responses don't address the issues a customer raises

Customers want to express themselves, and the time they need will vary depending on the type of customer you’re dealing with.

As such, if you rush them by jumping in with an immediate apology, you might seem like you're skimming over the actual issue.

Immediate apologies don't address a negative customer experience

Some customers might be getting in touch for the second or third time.

Their complaint might also amount to a lot more than one singular problem. 

Even negative customer service scenarios provide learning opportunities for you and your business. 

Take advantage of these opportunities by looking a little deeper than the initial complaint.

What inherent flaws could this interaction be highlighting?

What aspects of the interaction could you use as inspiration to improve?

How to effectively apologise

Once you've truly acknowledged your customers' frustrations and empathised person to person, the next step is providing a sincere apology.

Here are some vital pointers that’ll make the process easier for you and your employees.

Don't labour the point

Once you've listened to your customer and acknowledged the impact of their problem, apologise sincerely and move on to the solution as quickly as possible.

While a minor issue still needs serious attention, you don't need to spend an hour talking about the subject when all they want is a quick fix.

Instead, acknowledge the issue, offer a genuine apology, and provide a solution fast. 

Set a timeframe for your solution

How you resolve your customers’ problems will vary depending on the issue at hand.

However, the customer wants to hear how long your fix is going to take. 

It means that this interaction is an excellent moment to express urgency towards the issue - even if fixing the problem will take time. 

Capture a follow-up statement

At the end of an interaction, it’s a great idea to ask whether the customer is happy with the solution you've provided.

Rather than just asking whether they've 'got anything they need more help with', highlighting your solution allows them to reflect on the way they’ve been treated.

If the customer then realises that you've solved the trouble they were facing in a professional manner, they're much more likely to leave the interaction satisfied.

So, remember to follow-up on their opinions then and there. 

You could even make this a staple customer service goal during every interaction.

It's another excellent way to make your customer feel heard.

'Sorry for the inconvenience' in summary

There's a variety of reasons why your site's visitors might be getting in touch.

Perhaps they've run into trouble using your product or service.

They might have even discovered a fault or mistake.

In the worst-case scenario, their frustration might have tempted them into exploring competitive alternatives.

Whatever situation they’re facing, no one wants a boilerplate response that doesn't adequately address their issue.

So, if you ever find yourself writing 'sorry for the inconvenience' in the future, hit pause.

Remember to allow your customers to express themselves in full.

Genuinely acknowledge their issues.

It'll prove a stronger way to apologise, allowing you to build trust before deftly fixing the matter at hand.

Of course, to really spark engagement between you and your customers, you’ll need a customer service software solution that caters to their needs. 

With Talkative’s solution, you’ll be able to offer the best customer service - whether it’s directly through your website or on your customers' channel of choice: 

Want more information on how to implement the smartest contact channels for your organisatione? Book a demo with Talkative today.

Download the ‘Inner Circle Guide to Video & Next-Generation Customer Contact’

Discover use cases, implementation tips, and ROI for video chat as a contact channel

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