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March 5, 2014

Ever mess up a client’s project? How’d you handle it?

First, you get excited that you picked up a new client.  Then you find yourself really fortunate when that client comes back to you again and again.

And then it happens.  You drop the ball… a detail falls through the crack… the research gods stop smiling on you – and a project goes badly.

What do you do?

First, know that you’ve got some goodwill built up with this client.  You’ve been a good research partner for a while and that means something.  But you’ve still got to handle the situation properly.

Step 1 – Don’t avoid the issue… jump right on it.

Step 2 – Gather all the details that you can (internally) so you are fully aware of what happened.

Step 3 – Call (DON’T EMAIL) your client and let them know what happened; this call has three steps:

  • Tell your client what happened (focus on what, not why why doesn’t matter at this point)
  • Apologize… be brief and mean it!
  • Tell them what you’re going to do to fix it… and by when

Note: Sometimes your client won’t even know there was a problem.  Should you tell them?  The safe answer here is ‘yes.’  Better to be upfront with it… than to take the chance that your client finds out later and realizes you never got involved.

Step 4 – Go fix it and report back to the client

The simple fact is that projects sometimes go awry – and your clients know that.  When you take ownership of the situation, commit to fixing it and then fix it, your actions reinforce in your client’s mind that you are the right partner for them.  It reinforces their TRUST in you.

I heard a story a while back – and have no idea if it’s true or not, but I love the message… A certain hotel chain purposely installs a bad light bulb in the lamp next to the guest’s bed.  When the guest calls to report it… a friendly maintenance worker very promptly shows up at the door to fix it, apologizes for the inconvenience and replaces the bulb.  Guests know that things sometimes don’t work… but a friendly and responsive hotel reinforces that they made a good decision.

Problems are a part of business.  Managing them effectively shows that you are a vendor that can be relied on to do the right thing.  Remember… your success in life in not determined by what happens to you… but by how you respond to what happens to you.


For other blog posts on the “Customer Experience,” Click Here.

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