I know it’s hard, but say the words aloud with me, “I made a mistake.” Too hard? Try this one, “I was wrong.”
See, nothing happened! You’re still alive, nobody is staring and the world continues to revolve just as it always has. Fear of admitting mistakes is one of those impulses that’s as counterproductive in business as it is in everyday life. The truth is, everyone makes mistakes. Businesses included. And when that inevitable mistake happens, how you handle it says a lot about your business. It also decides if you keep a relationship with the customer going forward. Or if the person is so blazingly angry they share the experience with every single person they know, online and off.
That’s not good for your reputation. Or for business.
Rather than going on as if bad things won’t happen, take some time to think about what happens when they do. Plan what you’ll do and be sure and talk to your staff about these plans, they’ll take their cue from you. Reassure employees that mistakes will not cost a job or reflect badly on them, and that acknowledging something’s wrong and moving forward are what you consider valuable. Lead by example. Be approachable.
There are no shortage of ways to handle mistakes with your customers, and a lot depends on your business and industry. No matter what, common sense is a good guide to handling mistakes.
Top three tips:
Don’t deny the mistake. This only makes people angry, questions their truthfulness and is evidence that you’re out of touch, that you don’t care about what happened, who was wronged or why.
Don’t avoid responsibility. Own up to the mistake and say you’re sorry, just as we did at the start of this post. .It will not kill you; promise. Do this as soon as you can, be sincere and genuine in your desire to make it right.
Ask how you can fix it. This gives the customer, already wronged, a feeling of power and the sense that they were heard, valued. The answer is your way forward, do this and do it flawlessly.
Just as in our personal lives, what we do when we admit mistakes is to build a relationship, set an example. Forget deflecting the blame, offering excuses or even lying to escape the encounter. None of that will help you and it will end up costing you a valuable customer. Treat a dissatisfied customer with courtesy, genuine apology and fairness and you’ll have their business forever.
What’s more, you’ll show employees (vendors) that admitting mistakes and moving forward is your way. Do everything you can to be sure that the same mistake doesn’t happen again. Learn the lesson and move on. Forget the idea of being “all knowing” and free of mistakes, none of us are. The sooner we admit it, and act accordingly, the better.