We all make mistakes. You have and will continue to make mistakes. Factor this in as a given.
The variable is what you are going to do next.
This is an expression of your brand. Your brand promise, your mission, and your differentiator.
What will you do to make your handling of the situation outshine the mistake?
The very first step is to reach out to the client and acknowledge what’s happened. If possible, take this step face to face or over the phone instead of an email.
It’s tempting but don't pass the buck. Tech issues and delays from others are valid reasons for things to go wrong. But even if it's something beyond your control, taking responsibility for finding it and fixing it is a powerful step.
Taking ownership of a mistake tells your client you’re invested in getting better results instead of being passive.
When someone hires a service provider, there’s always fear they won’t handle things with the same level of investment and care. Mistakes are fuel for this tiny spark.
Before it turns into a raging fire, demonstrate you understand the impact this has on your client. Delays, costs, losses… That fear is telling them you’re not aware of or even concerned about those things. Proving it wrong takes away some of that fuel.
Acknowledging the impact of your mistake diffuses fears your client may be having about trust.
Being active instead of passive goes a long way in handling mistakes. Searching for the cause is an opportunity to solve not just one issue but potentially improve how things work overall.
Review the process itself and the process in context of the client task.
Was there something different or changed from the usual steps? Different tools, unclear communication, and plain ol' human error are all common culprits.
Sharing with the client that you’ve identified why the mistake happened demonstrates thoroughness. It sets you up for owning the solution as well as the mistake.
Hands down the most powerful step. When you've found what caused the issue, work backwards to identify the root causes.
Was human error caused by being unfocused or distracted? Are the instructions unclear?
Brainstorm ways to ensure quality. Checklists, drafts and mockups, and check-ins are all great ways to tell your client you're taking steps to avoid a repeat.
Taking responsibility for your mistake from problem to solution is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your client.
Mistakes are human though and you are not expected to be perfect.
Taking ownership of the situation and improving it will go a long way to build trust you're the right professional to handle the job, even if you hit some snags.
Obviously you can't be a consistent dumpster fire of mistakes and expect there to be no consequences. But they don’t have to be your undoing.
Owning your mistake is the chance to reframe a bad situation as a growth opportunity for you and the client. They’ll trust you more in the end.
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