Let’s begin by asking a question: “Have you ever made a mistake and if so, please raise your hand?” We assume our readers all have their hands raised because at one time or another we have all made mistakes and mistakes typically affect others and perhaps even our credibility. When you make a mistake with a customer, the next thing you do is vital in maintaining credibility and loyalty. Some immediate actions to mitigate negative consequences if you discover a mistake has taken place include:
- Acknowledge. Remember, customers are your livelihood. Don’t be shy, defensive, or afraid of the results; immediately acknowledge the mistake and be accountable. The sooner the acknowledgement comes the calmer the customer will react. Customers want to be heard and understood and this need is high if a mistake has been made.
- Apologize. Depending on the severity of the mistake, the apology may also vary. Regardless, an immediate apology is mandatory to mitigate negative consequences. If a mistake is extreme or offensive, additional formal apologies may need to take place such as a letter or phone call from a company leader expressing regret and offering to make amends.
- Answer. Always respond to a customer calmly. Obviously if you are too calm the customer may not perceive that you care. Be sure to demonstrate a sense of urgency in your response. Do not give excuses; explanations are good, just do not come across with a bad attitude or try to shift blame. Take accountability. Focus on what the customer is saying and be sure you understand the problem or mistake and that your customer believes you understand the situation.
- Action. What are you going to do to resolve the situation? If the mistake is complex and you need time to formulate a response, tell the customer you will respond to them within a short period. Be sure to specify the time-frame and ask the best way to contact them. Make sure you keep your word and respond with the actions that you will take to rectify the situation within the promised time-frame. Be sure the customer is satisfied with your actions to correct the mistake.
If you do not resolve mistakes to your customer’s satisfaction, the consequences can be severe to you and your organization. We’ve all heard that an unhappy customer voices their opinion and experience multiple times and word can spread like wildfire especially in our electronic and social media world. Studies have shown that it is over five times more expensive to win a new customer than to aggressively keep a customer. Even after making a mistake, you can aggressively strive to make things right with the customer and ensure that they are a repeat customer. Be a proactive leader in your organization because doing nothing or doing it wrong reaps the negative unintended consequences all leaders should avoid.
Finally, if a mistake has happened with your customer and has been resolved properly and satisfactorily (in their opinion) give some thought to how you can go the extra mile and earn your customer’s full trust back and even create a loyal customer out of the unfortunate situation. If necessary, talk to a peer, your team, or your boss. If you can delight your customer after a mistake is resolved it is more likely they will sing your praises than sing of your demise, so go the extra mile!