3. Apologize & Say Thanks

My mother taught me a pretty valuable lesson when I was a kid that's served me well so far in customer service:

Always do these two things as sincerely as you can and at any opportunity in which they're warranted: express gratitude, and apologize.

(Okay, I'm still working on it, but I do try to remember it.)

Most emails will require one of the two, and many call for both. If a merchant says something nice about our app or plugin, our site, or our team, thank her as sincerely as you can, not just, "Thanks for the kind words!"

Hey Sarah,
First, thanks so much for the kind words here! We really try to make [the software] as easy to use as possible, and it's great to hear we're moving in the right direction :)

Same for apologies. If the experience using our software didn't delight the merchant, apologize for it. If we can make it better or we're trying to, say so.

Hey Lauren,
I'm truly sorry we didn't meet your expectations here. We try to make [the software] as easy to use as possible, and we've missed the mark in this case. We are currently...

Anatomy of an Apology

We take responsibility for any issues that arise while using our software, even if they result from user error. We can make it clearer, and anyone should be able to successfully use our products. As Frank Underwood has said, it requires very little of us and will mean the world to them.

Here are the steps to apologize to merchants. They may only take part of a sentence, or they may take up an entire paragraph, depending on the issue at hand.

  1. Empathize or Sympathize: Show the merchant you understand his/her frustration. Always apologize for why the merchant is upset, not what the app / plugin did.

    Not: "I'm so sorry our service was down last night."
    Instead: "I'm truly sorry that our app wasn't available when you needed it."

    Not: "I'm so sorry this was difficult for you to set up." (definitely not that.)
    Instead: "I'm really sorry we haven't made set up as clear as it could be."

    This prompts you to empathize with the merchant and to understand the problem as they see it. Yes, it takes longer to formulate a response this way, but it puts you in the merchant's shoes and on his side so our answers come from a place of understanding.

  2. Take Responsibility: This is our fault; we can make it better. "We try to make this easy to install, and I'm sorry that we've missed the mark here." No empty apologies, no "I'm sorry you didn't get it." Own it.

    And NOT, "I'm sorry, but..." -- whatever comes after the "but" is what you really meant to say, and that's what the merchant hears. Like  Ned Stark says, "Everything before the word 'but' is horse shit."

  3. Resolve the Issue: Even if the answer is no, offer a resolution. Fix the problem, show the merchant how / where the problem can be fixed, recommend a different solution, or tell the merchant you need to check with a teammate that can best answer the question. We are always solutions-oriented once we've empathized and apologized.

Offering Sincere Thanks

Usually you can thank a merchant for something in an interaction. We don't need to thank them for every little thing so it doesn't seem trite or robotic, but we can definitely thank them in a few scenarios:

  • New merchant in a trial / just purchased: "Thanks for giving our [software] a try!"
  • Merchant provides feedback on our product: "Thanks for taking the time to share this feedback – it's important to hear how our software can better serve merchants using it."
  • A merchant compliments our app / team: "Thank you so much for your kind words!"
  • A merchant uses several products or has used them for a long time: "Thank you for a fantastic customer – we really appreciate your business :)"