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When B2B Needs Damage Control: The 6 components of a meaningful apology

Last updated on September 22nd, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Apologizing properly isn’t angelic. It’s a skill that can be learned. Consider this: B2B methods and verticals are dependent on relationship management. Long term, fully expressive, mutually beneficial dealings between vendors and customers is at the heart of account-based marketing, SAAS contracts and permission-based automation services.

Whenever and wherever there is a long-term relationship between human beings, mistakes happen. Recovering from those mistakes is necessary and recovery demands the ability to apologize in a way that is meaningful to all parties involved.

Science has the answer to apologizing properly, says a new study conducted by Roy Lewicki, Professor Emeritus, Management and Human Resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

In two experiments, Lewicki and his co-authors observed the reactions of 755 people to apologies containing between one and six of the following components of a meaningful apology:

  1. Expression of regret
  2. Explanation of what went wrong
  3. Acknowledgment of responsibility
  4. Declaration of repentance
  5. Offer of repair
  6. Request for forgiveness

The result? “Apologies really do work, but you should make sure you hit as many of the six key components as possible,” says Lewicki.


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Kate Baggott
Kate Baggott
Kate Baggott is a former Managing Editor of B2BNN. Her technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun and the Bay Street Bull. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories. Find links to recent articles by following her on LinkedIn