Anyone in business with years of experience will likely be able to cite a variety of past mistakes, whether they involve missing a meeting, not delivering content by a deadline or upsetting a client. The reality is, it’s impossible to be error-free in the demanding world of business, where deadlines and individual client preferences are numerous.
Ideally, businesses have a structure in place that helps prevent mistakes before they occur, even though they may still happen. As a result, businesses should realize that a mistake shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. A mistake can present an opportunity to solidify a client relationship, by giving you a chance to make up for it and more.
Here are five simple strategies to address mistakes in business, with integrity and honesty:
1. Provide Clients With Transparency
Businesses that make a mistake and refuse to tell a client about it until questioned will find themselves at the receiving end of an understandably irate client. Giving clients a heads-up shows integrity and a steadfast commitment to making it right, especially if they are not yet aware of the issue.
Ideally, you can address the issue with the client in person, or at least by phone. Showing an apologetic tone in an email is difficult. When apologizing, don’t beat around the bush. Directly clarify the mistake, why it happened and the resolution in progress. By telling a customer or client about a mistake before they realize it on their own, you enforce a willingness to take responsibility and right wrongs.
2. Offer Reassurance on Resolving the Issue
Being transparent about a business mistake is just the first step. It’s equally important to clarify with a client how you will resolve the issue. Since the last thing anyone wants is for the partnership to dissolve with a refund or termination of a contract, the best route is to offer a clear plan on how the project’s results will improve. You should also clarify what steps have been implemented to ensure the mistake does not occur again.
For example, if a PR agency sends out a press release for a client with erroneous content, it can immediately notify the client of the issue, while ensuring them that this round of pitching and its corrective follow-up round will be free of charge. This shows a business taking responsibility for its mistakes, while also offering a solid plan as to how it can resolve the issue without taking more resources or money from the client.
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama
3. Ask for Their Resolution Idea
After providing your own reassurance and strategy to amend the mistake, you should ask the client if there’s anything else you can do. If you proposed a firm plan for correcting the issue, then it’s likely they will simply say no — though the question provides room to make things right if they are not satisfied with your proposal.
If you intend on providing a discount due to your mistake, it’s better to ask the customer for their idea of a resolution before offering a discount, as their ideal discount may be less than what you initially intended on proposing. By accepting their idea for a resolution, the business is essentially admitting all wrongdoing while increasing the confidence of the client.
Additionally, for whatever the customer proposes as a solution, it’s a good idea to increase their desire slightly. For example, if a customer feels that a 10 percent discount is fair, counter with something like, “10 percent is very fair, and I’m very apologetic for our mistake. As a result, I will provide you with 15 percent off as a thank you for your understanding.”
4. Value the Power of Word-of-Mouth
Most clients are knowledgeable enough to know that mistakes happen. Their evaluation of a business incorporates how it responds to its errors. Especially in the digital age, reviews of a business are prevalent on social media and various review platforms.
A business that goes above and beyond to amend its mistake, by informing the customer of its error and offering a fair compensation, is likelier to be praised in reviews as taking charge of mistakes. Combined with other reviews from clients who ideally did not experience mistakes, a business will have an excellent review presence online.
“Free publicity and word of mouth is probably the best and cheapest form of advertising. Learn to use it to your advantage.” – Richard Branson
5. Don’t Stress That It Wasn’t Purposeful
If a client or consumer has spent time and money on your services, then they likely already know your mistake was just that, not some intentional sabotage. As a result, continually stressing that your mistake wasn’t on purpose is a waste of time, especially when you can be spending the dialogue on ideas for resolution and compensation. Taking the lead on amending a mistake is significantly more important than declaring its intent or lack thereof.
Mistakes happen in business, quite often. Eliminating these mistakes is ideal, but when they do occur, it’s possible for a business to salvage a client relationship with transparency, reassurance and a viable resolution.
How do you recover from a business mistake? Comment below!
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