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Word of advice: say you’re sorry

Running a business can be a lot like dating. In both cases, you invest in and maintain relationships, ones that can make or break you. It is also very important to remember that your customers also invest in the relationship (even if they are not paying customers). Healthy relationships require continuous effort and ensuring nothing gets taken for granted. When you stop thinking about the other person, feelings get hurt and things can go down in flames.

In business, and in a world where the voice of the customer has been amplified by social channels, we must treat our customer relationships more delicately and directly, not hiding or delaying our responses. But even then, sometimes we're going to screw up.

In a world where the voice of the customer has been amplified by social channels, we must treat our customer relationships more delicately and directly, not hiding or delaying our responses.

Mistakes can be a headache to deal with, but we can't run away from them. Owning up to our shortfalls is a responsibility we chose to take on when we committed to the relationship.

Zendesk has certainly not been immune to making mistakes. Let's think back to that time when we changed our prices and made our customers angry. Within a few hours of the change, there was a story on TechCrunch: "Zendesk raises prices, pisses off customers." The article even included comments from customers: "What are you playing at Zendesk?" and "Seriously????". We were accused of using a "bait and switch" tactic.

We were accused of using a "bait and switch" tactic. Yes, it was bad. In fact, at the time, it was horrible. But the good news: we bounced back.

Yes, it was bad. In fact, at the time, it was horrible. But the good news: we bounced back. After much deliberation, our CEO, Mikkel Svane, bared his soul on the Internet, apologizing and offering solutions to the problem:

"As a result, we will be grandfathering pricing to all of our existing customers—without a time limit. For the same price you’ve always paid, you will receive the same functionality that you had in the past in addition to the new community support… Today, I hope to express that we hear you, we understand, and we will always listen to our customers. We will also continue to invest in product innovation over the years to come, and we will remain committed to offering both the best product and the best value for all of the additional functionality we roll out in the future."

You can't always keep everyone happy, but you can keep the unhappiness at a minimum. A sincere apology might fix the moment, but being highly transparent can benefit the company in the long run. For any company, keeping an open and honest relationship with its customers will allow customers to relate more closely to the organization.