When Sorry Seems To Be The Easiest Word

I was on the receiving end of some poor customer experience at the weekend. The word ‘sorry’ was used, but in such a gratuitous, throwaway manner that it actually made the experience worse.

And having had many debates around the candidate experience within recruitment I was interested to see the parallels with other commercial sectors.

My conclusion, not unsurprisingly, was…bad experience sucks! However it’s delivered, a bad experience makes you want to shout and scream, tell everyone you know about it, and never use that business again.

And ‘sorry’ is a word that is often rendered meaningless by the way it’s delivered.

Here’s what happened. It was a simple, everyday shopping situation…

1)      Went in to a local branch of a major bookstore to buy a specific greeting card from a range I had been looking at the day before.

2)      Range wasn’t there. Was told that the range had not sold well so had been moved to stock to be replaced by another range. Asked if someone could go to stock and get me the one I wanted and was told that no-one could.

3)      Chose a different card and joined a queue (in third place) to pay.

4)      Two more joined behind me prompting a second sales person to come over and help out (wearing a t-shirt saying ‘Christmas Helper’). This sales person started serving from the back of the queue, ignoring the people who had been waiting the longest.

5)      When it was pointed out that she had ignored the people waiting the longest she said, without even turning to look properly at us…

Sorry, I didn’t see you there

(not sure what their training is, but if she missed a queue of five people I suggest that she’s not cut out for this line of work)

6)      To make things worse, when I did get served I was given the wrong change. The till had been closed so I had to wait until the ‘Christmas Helper’ had finished a long transaction at the other till before getting my correct change. I told her of my frustrations and she said…

I’ve already said sorry, what more do you want

7)      I replied…

A gratuitous ‘sorry’ doesn’t make a bad experience better

So next time a candidate applies for a role and…

–          The role has already been filled, or pulled, or put on hold, or never existed

–          The CV isn’t a good match

–          The candidate has made attempts to get you and not heard back…

–          …or keeps applying and no-one tells them that they are unsuitable

Then an auto e-mail saying thank you for your CV, if you don’t hear from us within 14 days you can assume that you are unsuitable for the position is very frustrating and not very informative…

…a message ignored is disrespectful

…and a

‘sorry, what’s your name? I can’t seem to find you here can you send it in again’

…is a very bad experience.

As I said before, bad experience sucks…and every person who interacts with your business and goes away with a negative impression is someone who may well shout and scream, and tell everyone about it.

What are you doing to make sure that all your customers, clients and candidates are having a good experience??


3 thoughts on “When Sorry Seems To Be The Easiest Word

  1. The point could equally be applied to the way people portray themselves on the web, whether through their website or a job post – i.e. first impressions really do count for so much.

  2. Absolutely bang on Mervyn! Whatever happened to customer service?
    I am currently looking for my next role and the poor attitudes of some recruiters never ceases to amaze me. I have found with some that unless they have a role right now they avoid your calls or fob you off.

    What I find more amazing is how you are supposed to do their job for them “have a look at the website and let me know if anything appeals”.

    Or even worse when they fail to check their own
    database that you spent ages filling in enormous forms to join and alert you of an appropriate role but simply advertise it so you have to apply! Pointless!

    What they need to remember is that we have very long memories and that today’s candidate is tomorrows client! I took some satisfaction once in refusing an agency business after their long pitch based on the fact they had actually made me cry with their scathing rejection when I was
    a mere candidate.

    Recruiters! Think on!

  3. I love this – they do say that for every bad experience that person tells 10 people. I guess that is multiply-d a thousand times with SM having a part to play. Whereas we rarely shout about the good experiences UNLESS asked – or on twitter 🙂

    I had a bad experience with Very.com and I posted it on their FB page as their customer services where “TERRIBLE”. I could imagine someone was sitting their filing their nails whilst taking my call. So out of rage (rightly or not) I posted a very well thoughout complaint on their FB page. Instantly a manage called, and sincerely said sorry (or made out ot be which is all it took) and sorted out my very “simple” query.


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