Mistakes happen. They’re unavoidable, and the best thing you can do is learn from them. However, when dealing with a mistake that affects a client, it is important to handle them well so that you don’t lose that client or damage your brand reputation.
Sometimes, the client finds an error before you do and points it out. It is better, however, to identify mistakes before your client notices them so that you can resolve the error and control the way you communicate the situation.
Communicating well in these situations is crucial and can make or break a client relationship. When you communicate well, your clients will be impressed with your professionalism and responsibility, and it can even strengthen your relationship. If handled poorly, however, you could end up losing that client, and even future clients, if they choose to give you bad reviews or refuse to recommend you to others.
So how can you make the best of an error and leave your client with a positive impression? Here are a few tips.
Prepare for the conversation
When a mistake happens, make sure you have all the information before contacting your client. You want to understand precisely what happened, who was involved, what has been done so far, and what actions are being taken to fix it.
Pick an appropriate medium
Whenever you need to have a difficult conversation, the best option is to organize a call or in-person meeting. With your tone, you can communicate the situation calmly, helping avoid miscommunications and defuse the situation. It also shows a willingness to take responsibility and hear from them personally, which is harder than just sending a message.
If the error is a small one, then sending an email update may be enough, depending on the timing. However, sending an informal message, such as a text or Slack, is often too casual for this type of communication.
Keep it concise
Although you have all the details, there is no need to give your client a long version of the situation if it’s unnecessary. Doing so can overcomplicate things and make them feel more worried than they need to be.
Instead, provide them with a summary of the problem and the solution. With this approach, you maintain perspective and avoid escalating the issue. Just be sure to make it clear that there is an error that needs fixing, and don’t overly downplay or avoid the issue entirely.
Taking responsibility is one of the most important things to do when you’ve made a mistake. If you pass blame, your client will lose trust in you, and it may permanently damage your relationship.
By apologizing and recognizing your role in causing the mistake, you demonstrate your honesty and trustworthiness, as well as your ability to analyze the situation fairly. You also establish a foundation of trust so that your clients believe you will handle any situation–difficult or not–with fairness and honesty.
Focus on solutions
Though you need to let your client know what happened, reassure them that you are already taking action to fix it. Start by telling them what has been done as an immediate response. Depending on your client, it may be better to show that you have thought through the whole process to resolve the mistake, or you may want to involve them.
If you want them to feel involved, give your client some options about different next steps to fix the solution, so they feel that they have some control of the situation, too. Alternatively, you could include them in the discussion about how to avoid the mistake in the future so that they have some say in the way things happen moving forward.
Don’t get defensive
Your client may have a strong reaction, depending on the seriousness of the mistake. Take their unhappiness and criticism on board and use it productively.
Although they may be upset, try not to react. Instead, stay calm and professional.
Communicate regularly as you address the mistake so that clients know you are making progress. Be available to answer their questions, and make sure you are patient with them.
Their trust in you and your team might be shaken, so by keeping them up-to-date you will help build up that trust again.
Learn from your mistakes
Once you rectify the error, make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again. Take the time to discuss with your team what led to the mistake in the first place, and what changes you need to make to prevent it in the future. It could mean adjusting your approval processes, reorganizing some responsibilities, or upgrading some of your tools.
Owning up to your mistakes can be difficult and takes some practice; however, communicating the situation to a client is crucial for maintaining a strong relationship based on trust. The good news is that most clients will be understanding of the occasional mistake; after all, everyone messes up from time to time.
Put these tips into use and be proactive, clear, and communicative with your clients, and you’ll get through it while also learning a valuable lesson for your business.
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