Apologies are an effective means of re-establishing trust, but how many times can someone say, “I’m sorry!” until you accept it and move on? When our children do something we don’t agree with, you may punish them — take a privilege away, withhold allowance or something else that sends them the message that they made a bad choice.
Crises happen! Products are recalled, natural disasters strike and scandals pop up more frequently than we would like, but they happen. Other than being prepared for the unexpected, how quickly and meaningfully a company, public official or even a spouse responds will determine how quickly trust is restored and people can move forward from blame to fixing the problem.
Without action and apology is simply a phrase. “I’m sorry” alone is meaningless no matter how many ways it is said. Giving out free burritos even failed for Chipotle due to their poor response from a wake of E. coli outbreaks that scared customers away.
After a number of Toyota vehicles experienced accelerator programs, the CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda made multiple apologies including on in front of world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2010. Toyota also took out full page ads in major US newspapers to not only apologize but to lay out a series of steps to correct the problem. On the other hand, the apology from Volkswagen was too late, FIFA officials tried to ignore the situation and the Governor of Michigan did not act quick enough and his actions have yet to make an impact in a community now two years into their crises.
After a crises something needs to change and change needs to be immediate where those affected can see meaningful results. Wait or delay a response and trust and ultimately your customer base will be lost.
What about our elected officials or, celebrities we follow or athletes we idolize? When they make bad choices, how do we punish them? And if they say “I’m sorry,” even more than once, should we accept it?
Apologies are meaningless without action behind it. What the person or company does next immediately after they made bad choices will ultimately determine how quickly they can restore trust amongst the people they broke that bond with. However, in America, an apology often presumes guilt or wrong doing, making one susceptible to litigation.
In Flint, Mich. that trust is lost — with the state government and federal government. Neither words nor actions can restore those affected by lead poisoning, both physically, mentally and economically back. It’s too late. The State of Michigan and EPA let the problems linger and both are pointing fingers at each other.
They need to put their fingers down and move forward fast to try to make up for lost time. They have taken some steps moving forward to invest in Flint children, replace the aging infrastructure and find additional funding to help the community -- it is simply not moving fast enough.