When a client airs a problem or complaint, it is often our first instinct to explain why it happened. Don't do it.
The client doesn’t really care WHY it happened. They just want acknowledgment of the problem and then they want amends.
1. Resist the urge to explain. Never, ever explain who dropped the ball or offer any excuses about why. Here are three reasons to skip the "explanation":
- your explanation cannot help but demonstrate to the client areas in which your systems and processes are weak--they will think less of you
- blaming others (or processes over which you should have some control or authority) reduces the impression of your personal integrity and effectiveness--they will think less of you
- lastly, the explanation does not serve to correct the problem in any way
Worse, these three things will almost certainly further aggravate clients. Why? Because it makes them question, and doubt, their judgment in hiring you.
2. Own the problem. Even if it is not your fault. Especially if it's not your fault. Do not pass the client to "someone else" to deal with it. Even if they caused it.
The first thing the client should always hear is a sincere apology. It's actually quite liberating to apologize on behalf of yourself, others, or the organization. Just say "I am so sorry this has occurred."
Immediately following the apology, state directly that it is your intention to solve the problem or make up for it, as appropriate. Say, "I will do everything in my power to correct this and take steps to assure it does not happen again." If necessary, you can add, "and to make up to you for the inconvenience."
Almost always, these two statements will diffuse a client’s anger or frustration. You can then either propose a solution or ask what the client would like as a remedy.
The two-step approach, instead of causing clients to doubt their judgment in hiring you, reassures them that they hired someone of integrity and honor.
Mistakes will always happen--they are part of life and business. What matters to your customers is how you handle them when they occur.
*Note - these approaches are as effective internally as they are outside of your firm
"When you blame others, you give up your power to change." -- Dr. Robert Anthony