Have you ever had that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are reviewing something for a client and then a situation comes to light where all you can think and repeat is “Oh SH*T!”?
I made a mistake – a big one that really affected my client. To promote their new training program, we set up an extensive email campaign to a number of email lists over a six-week period. However, due to a technical oversight, part of the emails failed to send. In my mind, this is catastrophic for a few reasons, including missed sales opportunities for my client, but mostly because I let my client down and had no idea how to make it up to her. All I knew was that I had to make it right – I would do anything to make it up to her and ensure the situation NEVER happened again. However, my faith in my process and myself was still shaken – my commitment to provide top service and results was turned upside down. This is the bedrock of my business.
Initially, I kept wondering how this could have happened. I thought I had a rock solid Q&A process – multiple sets of eyes checking the email structure and content, client sign off, and even last-minute checks. Then reality sinks in – I am human. My team and client are human as well – we make mistakes. It is HOW we respond that really dictates the level of integrity we have in ourselves and work.
Truth: This mistake may have never been discovered by the client.
Yes, I may have been able to get away with it, but I would have known. The conversation with the client explaining what happened was a tough one but a small part of me felt better knowing she knew what happened. It also gave me the opportunity to show her how determined I was to make it right.
Lesson #1: Own up to the mistake and accept the consequences.
I think it takes a bigger person to step up, admit a mistake and work to fix it than brush it under the rug, praying no one lifts up the corner. The client may leave you for making the mistake OR they may stick with you because they know you will NEVER make that mistake again. As with any relationship, it is these moments of adversity and challenge that make a business relationship stronger.
Lesson #2: Take the opportunity to solidify your Q&A process.
As I mentioned already, I thought my process was rock solid, but this situation showed me cracks in my foundation. This is actually a blessing in disguise because when I know the vulnerabilities in my process, I can take measures to address them so they never happen again, and in the end, I make my business stronger.
Lesson #3: Discover how you and your team operates in a crisis scenario.
Of course I found out about this mistake at 5 PM when I was on my way to pick up my son at the end of my work day. However, this mistake needed to be fixed IMMEDIATELY as time really was of the essence for my client’s training program launch date. Immediately, I jumped into damage control mode so we could get this fixed ASAP to mitigate any further repercussions.
Needless to say, my team and I were fixing emails to the wee hours of the morning but it demonstrated a few things – my team is responsive when the client counts on it the most and I have the communication lines and infrastructure to respond quickly and nimbly to meet the client’s need. Above all, it showed the client that we will work our tail off to fix a mistake and salvage the relationship.
Lesson #4: Take the opportunity to strengthen the client relationship.
This situation really puts your relationship with your client to the test. Some people may be inclined to downplay the gravity of the mistake or pass the blame, but this doesn’t serve any productive purpose. Take this opportunity to show your client you are committed to making them happy, providing top-notch service and delivering results with the highest level of integrity. I promise you that if you honour these elements and stay true to the values of your company, your clients will stick around and respect you more for how you managed the situation.
Lesson #5: Realize that everyone fails sometimes.
Despite every Q&A measurement you have in place, things will go wrong at some point in your process – this is a fact of entrepreneurship and business. It is these mistakes that keep our egos and goals in check. Take this as an opportunity to practice humility, understanding and appreciate the “I’ve been there” moments. And when someone makes a mistake while working for you, remember the moment you once messed up too – it will help you react in a pragmatic way so that your head doesn’t explode.