Customer relations: How to apologise to a client
Mistakes in business are inevitable, and sometimes your actions will have a negative impact on your customer relations. Now the good news: my advice on how to eat humble pie enables you to admit the error and come out looking good.
I recently received a phone call from a business associate and good friend – let’s call him John. He is a Financial Planner and is intelligent, very good at his job, very conscientious and caring.
“Linda, I need your advice. I have done something really stupid!” he said.
He explained how had met with new clients several days earlier for their initial Financial Planning session, which lasted two to three hours. During the session, mountains of important information is gathered which allows John to start creating their Financial Road Map.
“The file is lost!” John said. “I have turned the office upside down; I have checked with every planner in the company; searched my car, the bins, everywhere.
Three hours of work and important information is missing and I can’t progress work for the clients without it. What should I do?”
It was time for John to learn how to eat humble pie.
"It is tempting to wait in the hope the problem will magically disappear … a majority of the time, it won't!"
The sooner you take action the better your clients will receive the news. It is tempting to wait in the hope the problem will magically disappear … a majority of the time, it won’t!
Mistakes happen to everyone. Be totally honest with your clients about what has happened and the consequence. Honesty breeds respect and good customer relations.
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Have a plan
Have a plan to rectify the mistake before you speak to your clients. It affirms your professional integrity and helps them feel they are being looked after.
This is a great time to offer a service or product to your client that provides added value.
When you make a mistake where there is some cost or consequence for your client, adding value is a sign of acknowledging the inconvenience caused and can improve customer relations significantly.
Initially, your client may be upset about the mistake. That is understandable, so you need to accept their reaction graciously. Any anger is almost sure to pass.
So John apologised. The new clients were very understanding and scheduled a time to redo the three hours of work.
By acting appropriately, John had shown his clients he was honest and committed to doing a great job for them. He actually found that owning up was not as hard as he expected it to be.
48 hours later the file reappeared – the work didn’t have to be redone after all.
It’s funny how the world works, isn’t it?