May I apologise on behalf of ....

This evening my daughter is flying back to the UK from Cyprus.  She has sent me a text to say that there is going to be more than a two hour delay, this means that instead of getting home at 1am it is going to be around 3:30am.  As I volunteered to collect her, this means that it will be 4am before I get to bed.

Clearly I will not be on the flight, but I have been on enough of them to hear the words of cabin crew.  “Our flight will be arriving two and a half hours late and on behalf of Ontime Airlines I would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

I have to imagine this apology though because no one from the airline is going to contact me or even be aware that I am going to be up all night, because of their delay.  So why do they even say it, an insincere and weak apology causes more offence.

There is a better way.   I remember travelling with another airline/tour company who actually pointed out the complaints procedure before the safety announcement.   Why? Because they had rightly identified that it was better to get people to complain and get things resolved at the beginning of the holiday, rather than having people sitting around a swimming pool for two weeks moaning to everyone they meet.    The complaint that would have arrived later, in writing, would be significantly more expensive to deal with. 

So having a person close to the complaint, with the authority to provide a solution to the customer or client closes the matter quickly.  This only works when the monetary value of the complaint is small, or does it?

Would it work in the world of the professional accountant where the value of complaints is difficult to quantify and the number of people involved unknown?      

Not everyone is looking for compensation.  Many people accept that mistakes happen, we are all human.   Sometimes they only need an apology.  I remember an American hospital that tried this and their PI claims fell dramatically.    What stops us doing this?  Fear?  Fear of the unknown? 

Our lawyers would hold their heads and scream, but I would say that the view of your insurer is the only one that matters.   Maybe if we admit our mistakes, apologise, settle quickly, we could even keep  the client.  

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By Steve Knowles - More than 25 years in business and practice in the UK means that there is very little that I haven't seen before.  But I also worked on your side of the pond and I have spent too many hours on planes and in airports.  But the years haven't dulled my way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and everyday is a new adventure.

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