We all work to serve our customers and clients to the best of our ability. Never do we put it on our to-do list to royally mess up something so that we can destroy business relationships and lose lots of money – and least no sane person does this. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop bad things from happening from time to time. Mistakes happen, but they don’t have to ruin your business or your reputation permanently. If you find yourself in this predicament, take a look at this sound advice for owning up to and resolving mistakes while saving face with your customers.
Pay attention to the details.
The best way to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place is to pay attention to the details before issues are given room to arise. Especially when you’re working on complex projects or accounts with many moving parts, it is always worth double, even triple-checking not only what you’re responsible for, but what other people are responsible for as well. This doesn’t mean micromanaging or exhausting yourself over stressing over small or insignificant details. Rather, this means knowing what details matter most, what details can break down processes, and what details can cost you big. And those are the details which you need to pay attention to daily, even hourly.
Alert the right people at the beginning.
Yes, you need to alert people right away, but you don’t need to sound every alarm and involve every person. Start by alerting the right people at the beginning, the ones who the mistake will impact most or who can jump in with you and starting sorting out a solution. You’ll build both credibility and allies with your client. Plus, you’ll also have more collaboration toward a solution than you would if you were stressing over pulling together all the details and solving everything on your own.
Take ownership of the problem.
Never, ever hide or minimize a problem. The truth will come out and you’ll lose all integrity and credibility with your client if they realize you were hiding something that they needed to know about it. Sure, it may not come at the most convenient time. You may not have been able to identify a solution, and it might be really hard to manage their concern and frustration. But bringing it to their attention early, and owning up to any oversight or mistake that may be on your end will be a step toward reconciliation.
Map out multiple solutions.
Come to your client with various solutions to address and correct the problem. If you have only one solution, how can you be confident that it’s the best solution? Or that it won’t again cause a future problem? You want something that will fully address what happened and not merely be a temporary bandage. It’s natural to want to fix something quickly, but don’t replace one mistake with another mistake. Take a breath, time a little more time, and map out multiple solutions so you can compare them against one another.
Present the best possible solutions with your recommendation.
When presenting these solutions to your client, also come with an opinion and recommendation. Be prepared to back up your recommendation with facts and the analysis you ran to reach this point. If the problem was indeed the result of your oversight, this is your first and best demonstration to your client that you are committed to paying attention to details from this point forward, and you are committed to making things right no matter what it takes.
Be hands-on and proactive in the solution.
Finally, remain hands on when implementing the solution. If you’re able to find your client a feasible resolution to the problem, great. But the road doesn’t end there. It remains your issue until you’ve come full circle with a solution that is now fully working and will remain working into the future. Additionally, you’ll want to have a closeout consultation with your client once you’ve gone through the whirlwind of identifying the problem, finding a solution, and implementing it. This gives you a chance to begin rebuilding your reputation, answer their questions, and address how you will work to ensure a problem like this won’t arise in the future.
Have you had to communicate a mistake or error to your customers? What was your experience and what did you learn? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.