Skip the excuses. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of trying to explain away problems. An explanation later is fine, but it shouldn’t be the starting point. And the explanation should never sound defensive.
Start with empathy. While an apology is important, it’s critical that the customer also feels that you understand the position they are in, and want to help them with the issue.
Decide on a solution. Make a suggestion for a solution and ask, “Fair enough?” Or ask the customer what he feels is fair. Studies have found that the vast majority of complaining customers will still do business with you if their complaint is resolved on the spot, but this percentage plummets if the customer has to wait or jump through any hoops.
Assure them you’re changing. Let them know that not only will their problem be fixed, but that you are taking action to see that similar situations don’t occur in the future.
Go beyond resolution. Create a “story” for the customer to tell by fixing the problem in a memorable way. Make another concession they were not expecting. Give or do something extra. The cost of giving something away is usually much less than the cost of losing a customer’s future business and the business of all those he tells his story to.