If you want your business to succeed, you know how important it is to provide quality service. But bear in mind that no matter how dedicated you are, accidents can still happen. You could be in the middle of working on a client’s project when your computer crashed, your distributor could have misplaced an order, or your billing department may have sent a client the wrong invoice. Now your client feels let down.
So what do you do now? One of the first things that comes to mind is to correct the problem so that you can prevent it from happening again with a different client. However, don’t just leave the disgruntled client hanging.
It pays to have a plan in place for when something like this happens so that if and when things do go wrong, you can fix them as efficiently as possible before you lose a client. What you should not do is to blame someone else to save your reputation, pass on a superficial solution to try and buy yourself extra time, or turn your back on the problem and hope it will go away. Remember, maintaining your integrity is important, and even if you’ve messed up, your client will respect your honesty.
What to do When You Make a Mistake
- Accept it: There’s no point denying it, it’s not just going to disappear. You need to know exactly how and why this happened. Find out what your company promised your client, exactly what the client was expecting, and what the client got or did not get. Don’t make assumptions, talk to every member of your team who was involved in this transaction.
- Don’t hide: If you find out about a mistake before your client does, be upfront about it and tell them. This can go a long way to restoring their confidence in you and increasing the possibility that they will use your business again.
- Communicate: The first thing to do is to apologize. Then let the client know what you are doing to try to fix the problem. Let them know how long it will take you, and be realistic with your timeline. Always keep your word. If the client calls you and for some reason, you cannot answer, always return their calls promptly. If other team members have to answer the client’s calls, advise them how to do so.
- Be empathetic: Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Don’t attack them even if they are angry, after all, it was you who made a mistake. If you take a fair approach to the client, you may even still be able to retain their business. You must re-earn their trust by fixing the problem promptly and continuing to deliver a great service.
- Explain what went wrong: Don’t skimp on the details; your client deserves to know exactly what went wrong. Reassure your client that the situation is under control and that it will not happen again. Keep a positive tone but be realistic. Ask questions and be prepared to listen to what your client has to say.
- Present options: Depending on the type of mistake and why it happened, the solution may not always be cut and dry. For this reason, it’s important to give your client some options. For example, you could offer a refund, an alternative service or a discount to make up for the impact of the error.
- Maintain perspective: Sometimes it’s hard to keep a sense of perspective when you feel you’ve let your client, your team or yourself down. However, try to keep your reaction proportional to the mistake you’ve made; don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Unless it’s a life or death situation, most mistakes can be corrected fairly quickly.
- Create a protocol: Discuss the problem with your team. Learn from your mistake and create a strategy to deal with future mistakes. You may have to make some changes to the way your company functions, with the technology you are using, or within the structure of your personnel. Don’t be stubborn, be prepared to make adjustments to improve the quality of your service and reduce the risk of future errors. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
Mistakes to Avoid When Interacting With a Client
- Assuming the client is always right: If your client is requesting a product or service that you feel does not meet their needs, tell them. This can prevent things going wrong before you deliver the goods. If you remain silent and just go along with it, you may get blamed later and lose the client and potential referrals.
- Not handling criticism: If an unhappy client is offering fair criticism, take it on board and learn from it. This is not the time to get defensive. Research shows that 90 percent of dissatisfied clients switch to a different service provider. Try not to let your client walk away feeling that they should never have hired you in the first place. A disappointed client can cost you more than you may think.
- Not maintaining regular contact with your clients: When you have completed a transaction with a client, don’t think your job is done. You need to contact them from time to time, even if it’s just to see how they are doing. Keep them abreast of new products and services which may benefit them.
- Avoiding answering questions: If a client asks you a question and you are not sure of the answer, don’t avoid it, and don’t provide an answer that may not be accurate. Admit that you are not sure and explain that you will find out straight away. Don’t leave them hanging, do your research and get back to them as soon as you can. Communication counts for so much!
Mistakes will happen; no business can be run flawlessly. The important thing is to learn from your experiences and ensure that you don’t make the same mistake twice.