HAVE you ever waited so long in line that when it is your turn to be served, the customer service officer greets you with a "Sorry to have kept you waiting. How may I assist you?"

How does that make you feel? Chances are you have already begun feeling better.

A sincere apology is important if you want to develop a good relationship with your customers. Many business owners are not aware that not apologising for unsatisfactory services or products can affect their business growth in the long-term.

For instance, if a customer is upset and the situation is not resolved, he may tell the next 10 people he meets about the poor service he experienced at your company.

Can you imagine the scale if the rest go on to share their experience with 10 acquaintances each? This is the result of how an ineffective apology can affect a company's reputation and business.

Dr Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, co-authored a book with Dr Jennifer Thomas on The Five Languages Of Apology. Their insights not only serve businesses but are helpful to those who want to foster better relationships with their spouses, children, friends and colleagues.

Here are the five languages of apology discussed in the book:

1. Express regret

This means saying "I am sorry" and accompanying the apology with appropriate body language.

Apologising with a smile tends to make an angry person more irate.

2. Accept responsibility

Be responsible for your actions. Admit that you were wrong and that you regret making the mistake. You may think that the customer is getting upset over a minor issue, but look at the problem from his perspective. He may have encountered this on numerous occasions and his patience may have run out.

People will appreciate you more when you accept responsibility and are accountable for your mistakes.

3. Make restitution

Ask the dissatisfied person what you can do to make things right and deliver only if his request is reasonable. When you make restitution, be prepared to change your behaviour or the way things are done.

4. Repent genuinely

This means that if you are truly sorry, you will make a commitment not to repeat the same mistake again. It might not be easy if it involves breaking a habit, but the effort to modify your behaviour will be greatly appreciated.

For example, if you are always late or missing appointments, what can you do to make sure that you turn up as scheduled? One way is to give your friend a call to inform him that you are running late.

When you repent, make sure that you do not go back to your old ways. Actions speak volumes. Keeping your word builds trust, which brings greater opportunities.

5. Request forgiveness

When feelings of hurt remain, the next step is asking for forgiveness. Doing so expresses humility and opens a channel of communication.

It also expresses your keenness to keep the relationship going. He may not forgive you immediately but if you are sincere and make an effort, he may open communications lines with you again.

Speaking the five languages of apology may sound simple but it takes effort and humility to learn to be "fluent". If you want results, focus less on who's right or wrong, and work towards growth and resolution.