The art of the business apology (with free templates)

August 10, 2022

The GOAT is about to take her last bow — Serena Williams announced she’ll be retiring after the 2022 U.S. Open. Excuse us as we try to find any way to cop tickets.

In this week’s edition:

  • Learning to pronounce diverse names at work — with finesse.
  • Managing customer neglect (and expectations).
  • Related: Saying “I’m sorry” like the upstanding SMB that you are.


How to approach diverse names in the workplace

A man wearing a name tag that says, "Vicente (vee-sen-tay)."

Ever read a name you’re not sure how to pronounce?
You’re not alone. Let’s say you’re welcoming a new employee who has a unique name you aren’t familiar with. You might think it’s worth a little embarrassment to attempt a pronunciation, but it’s more important that we pronounce names correctly.

Names can carry cultural, familial, or historical meaning. They’re a foundational part of our identity — to mispronounce them can cause more hurt than we might think.

No one wants to be like those substitute teachers stumbling through roll call. Thankfully, there are strategies to help you approach diverse names and hopefully, develop a deeper connection with your colleagues:

Do some research.
There are tons of resources online for getting phonetic descriptions of names. YouTube is going to be your best friend here — there’s a whole channel dedicated to correctly pronouncing names across different cultures.

Ask for help.
The truth is that an individual’s name is pronounced however they choose. Try opening your conversation with something like, “Hi X, am I pronouncing your name correctly?” This will either result in an excited “Yes!” or “It’s actually pronounced Y.”

In both cases, you’re building rapport — your question shows that you’re invested in getting to know them as a person.

👉 Find more strategies.


It’s a #HotConference summer and you’re invited

Trainual Playbook event banner featuring a panel of speakers.

We’re welcoming the best in the (small) biz to share their proven playbooks with you at Playbook 2022!

Ask best-selling author and marketing wunderkind Seth Godin all of your burning questions. Get the inside track on how to train for running a business with pro athletes and Saysh owners Allyson and Wes Felix. Plus, hear from the people behind today’s fastest-growing companies, like Basecamp, The Giving Keys, PandaDoc, Little Spoon, The Cupcake Collection, and more.

It’s all happening September 21-22. And guess what? It’s completely FREE and headed for a laptop near you.

Hold up — you haven’t registered yet? We’ve got a link for that.

👉 Register here.


Do your customers feel neglected? Their answer might surprise you.

Is customer neglect on the rise?
Survey says… yep. Many believe customers are feeling increasingly ignored when they reach out for help. Like when they wait five-ever for an email response, can’t get a real person on the phone (we feel that), or listen to this surprisingly catchy tune for hours on end.

That’s not us. We have a great customer service team.
High-five for building an all-star, attentive team. But keep in mind that nowadays, your customers expect instantaneous help. And anything less than a quick turnaround will leave them feeling totally ignored and underimpressed.

A man in a bowling alley screaming, "Pay attention to me!"

Remember the days when everyone was amazed by Amazon’s two-day delivery? Now anything less is flat out disappointing. You’re ultimately up against all of the annoyingly immediate services that exist — no matter your industry.

We can’t compete with that! What do we do?
To mitigate customers’ high standards, try:

  1. Paying attention to site traffic. If your team peaces out before peak hours, you miss out on prime time to chat with prospective and current customers. Watch for changes and adjust schedules accordingly.
  2. Setting realistic expectations. If it takes your team an average of three hours to respond to chats, just say so! Customers would rather anticipate a longer response time than be left wondering.

👉 See more ways to nurture customer relationships.


A crash course on apologizing — professionally (with free templates)

My business screwed up. Now what?
Consider the following scenarios:

  • Your resident escape artist (ahem — the dog) ran out the door one morning making you 20 minutes late for a client meeting. 
  • You accidentally charged a customer for shipping when it should’ve been free. 
  • An employee ketchup-shamed a diner when they asked for five extra packets (the fries were *extra* thirsty that day).

Any of them sound remotely familiar? Contrary to popular opinion, businesses are human, too. Because until our robot overlords take over, there are real-life people powering them — and mistakes are just part of the human condition.

This is the stuff Yelp nightmares are made of.
Well, yes — but they don't have to be. Just like your personal relationships, how you handle a gaffe can be the difference between a loyal customer and a social media adversary. It all starts with taking responsibility for your SMB’s actions (say it with us: “be humble… sit down”) and detailing what went wrong along with how you plan to make things right.

The best way to do that?

An apology letter.

Writing (and apologies) aren’t my forte.
That’s okay. Not everyone can be a Keats or Hemingway. Whether you’re apologizing for a defective product, being late to an appointment, or a cranky employee, these 10 SMB apology templates have your back.

👉 Say you’re sorry like a pro.


This week’s highlight reel

  • Young moolah, baby. Imagine the financial barriers you could leap over with a little extra help. We’ve got you — check out the latest and greatest small business grants for women and minority entrepreneurs
  • It could be worse. Or could it? When we dismiss complex issues by abruptly condensing them into oversimplified, clever phrases like this one, it can actually diminish our mental health. It’s basically the mental equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Oh well, it is what it is. 
  • Nana nana nana nana… can-celed! Warner Brothers invested $90M in the almost-done “Batgirl” film before *pow* calling it quits. No, we won’t see it in theaters or on streaming services. And yes, a film with major diversity (including a woman of color lead and a transgender character) just got the boot. Not a good look, WB.
  • Testing 1, 2, see! Premium YouTube subscribers can test a pinch-to-zoom feature in mobile apps until September. We don’t know about you, but we hope it sticks after testing — our eyes aren’t getting any younger over here. *Nerdily boosts glasses up higher.*

Organize the chaos
of your small business