Missing a project deadline can hurt your client relationships and your business. Unfortunately, it’s happened to all of us. Either we take on more than we can handle or life simply gets in the way.

However, there are ways to communicate any delays without damaging client relationships or losing your clients’ trust.

If your team misses a deadline, follow these steps to reassure your clients that they can trust you and that you are doing everything possible to keep projects on track.

1. Notify the client early

There’s nothing worse than emailing a client the day before or the same day a project is due to ask for more time. As soon as you realize you are not going to complete a project on-time, your team should let your clients know.

The earlier you can contact them, the better. And make sure they receive the update by contacting them via their preferred communication channel – whether it’s email, Slack, or a phone call.

2. Explain the situation

Not all projects are created equal. Depending on the project and its level of importance, you may need to explain why you missed the deadline in a different manner. And regardless of how big or small of an impact the missed deadline may have, the key is to avoid blaming anyone.

Rather than saying, “Sorry we missed this deadline because one of our team members is on vacation. Can we deliver the project next week?” Provide a specific reason as to why you missed the deadline. Most clients will have a hard time forgiving poor planning on your part.

The best approach is to be honest and outline the specific facts about what went wrong on your end. A better explanation would be, “It looks like the research stage of this project is going to take us a few days longer than expected. Could we extend the deadline from this Tuesday to the following Tuesday?”

A more detailed explanation will go a long way in ensuring your clients understand exactly what caused the delay and what your team is doing to fix it.

Confirm a new deadline immediately

Before you notify your client about a missed deadline, figure out when you will be able to deliver the project. The new deadline shouldn’t put your team in a position where they have to rush to deliver the project. Your clients won’t be too happy if the work is late and low quality.

Once you confirm a new deadline internally, communicate your suggestion to your client and make sure it works for them too.

Apologize and make up for it

Most of the time, it’s safe to assume you are inconveniencing your clients by missing a deadline. Especially if missing a deadline is going to cost your client time or money, a genuine apology and offer to make up for it is necessary so they know you are serious about the work and your relationship.

Offering your clients something to make up for the inconvenience is a good idea. Perhaps it’s discounting next month’s services or providing a related service for free. There are plenty of add-ons you can consider after you’ve completed the delayed project.

Avoid missing deadlines in the future

If your team misses a deadline, treat the situation as a learning opportunity. Gather your team and discuss what went wrong with the project. Did you accurately estimate the time and resources needed for the project? Did you set an unrealistic timeline? Where were the gaps in communication with your team and client(s)?

Identifying the problem areas can help your team develop solutions and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Tools like Gain can help your team organize your projects, communicate with clients, and send automatic reminders to prevent project delays.

Missing a deadline is never a fun experience. But when it happens, follow these steps to minimize the damage and keep your clients happy.