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Southwest Airlines has an employee with the sole job of apologizing to customers when things don’t go as planned, whether that’s a delayed flight or something completely out of Southwest’s hands. But they don’t wait for customers to complain to say they’re sorry. They’re proactive about making things right, even if you didn’t ask them to.

But Southwest isn’t the only one. Companies like Netflix and Mini Cooper have both shown that saying you’re sorry before your customers say they’re mad can turn them into raving fans.

Here are three reasons why that’s a great word of mouth strategy:

1. You’ll stop negative word of mouth before it starts
2. They’ll be more likely to come to your defense
3. It shows you actually care

1. You’ll stop negative word of mouth before it starts

Mini Cooper apology

Photo thanks to PR Daily.

If you’re waiting for your customers to call you out on a mistake before you apologize, you’re missing out on all of the negative word of mouth you might not be hearing. Not every customer will go straight to the phone or social media to let you know you’ve messed up. Instead, they’ll tell their friends, family, and co-workers first. Why not beat them to it and turn their negative experience into a positive one to tell everyone about? Mini did it by mailing a quirky apology complete with duct tape, Spam, and chocolate roses to customers who might have been affected by an email glitch.

2. They’ll be more likely to come to your defense

FedEx apology

Photo thanks to Jackie Huba.

One of the best ways to handle negative word of mouth is to have your customers stand up for you. How do you do that? By apologizing as quickly as you can when something goes wrong. That way, when these customers see other people complaining about the same problem, they’ll talk about your apology instead of joining in on the rant. Make your apology sincere and shareable — like FedEx’s video of an executive apologizing for a rogue delivery employee. Your fans will pass it along.

3. It shows you actually care

The most important reason to promptly apologize when stuff goes wrong is the most obvious: It’s the right thing to do. Companies who earn word of mouth from raving fans are the ones who make decisions like these not because they have to, but because they truly care about their customers. This isn’t a marketing tactic, it’s a fundamental part of their culture that earns them raving fans and loyal customers.

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