Some customer service schools of thought suggest that a company should never say “I’m sorry” to an upset client, instead advising representatives to merely acknowledge the problem and work to fix it. While that may be appropriate in some instances, apologizing can sometimes be the difference between saving the relationship or having a disgruntled client – a dangerous thing indeed.

After you have extended your apologies, what will you do to make sure the same mistake does not occur again? A promise to fix the problem is one thing, but actually following through on that vow will determine whether you will lose a client’s trust or reinforce it. I’ve talked about saying “I’m sorry” before, in the post “The Art of the Client Apology,” but there are a few points I would like to add. Today, I’d like to discuss knowing when it’s appropriate to apologize.

Sometimes, there will be errors that are not in your control or that your clients will not necessarily view as a mistake. When you suspect a client is unhappy, talk to him or her, but allow the person to broach the subject. In some cases, the client’s dissatisfaction may be the result of a miscommunication, at which point you should both have a larger conversation about his or her expectations and your ability to meet them.

If you determine that an apology is necessary, be careful about how you word it. When you don’t give thought to how you say you’re sorry, you could end up doing more damage than good. Avoid making excuses, as these can undermine your client’s confidence in your ability to serve him or her well, and instead accept responsibility and explain what you will do to avoid a similar situation in the future. By handling the mistake properly and humbly, you may end up earning even more respect from your client.

Love may mean never having to say you’re sorry, but high-quality customer service is defined by acknowledging breakdowns in satisfaction and doing everything necessary to patch up a damaged relationship. Just be sure that in the process, you are not hurting your cause further.