There will come a time (probably several times) in your business when you make a huge mistake and will have to apologize to a client. You will drop the ball on a client, totally forget about something, or just completely screw up. Letting your client down is such a heartbreaking and scary experience. The best skill you can learn is how to say, “I am sorry, “I take full responsibility for…..”
So what is the best way to approach a screw up?
- Your mistake probably feels bigger than it is. Any tough conversation comes from fear of the unknown. Relax. Take a deep breath. Waiting and mulling over your mistake will only magnify the stress for you. Address it immediately.
- Apologize personally, with humility, respect, and honesty. Don’t beat around the bush and B.S. Speak humbly face to face. It is important to actually say the words “sorry” and “apologize” and provide a clear indication of what you are apologizing for.
- Don’t make excuses. There might be a valid reason for your mistake. Now is not the time to explain it. Take full responsibility without caveats.
- Try not to pay the blame forward. Do not start with, “I’m sorry that you feel…” Blaming your client, or anyone else for an emotion they’re having, just puts the blame on them.
- Be explicit about a solution. Once you’ve admitted your part in the situation and taken responsibility, it is time to fix it and make it up to a client. For example, one of my chefs completely messed up a client’s service at the holidays due to miscommunication. I promptly called the client and let her know that her entire service would be credited back to her with my sincerest apologies.
Just remember that everyone makes mistakes and the world isn’t coming to an end if you have to apologize to a client. Most people know that and will be more forgiving than you realize at the time. The next time that someone else makes a mistake and they apologize to you, think about how you will handle it. Remember, what you give to the world, you get from the world. Grace and understanding are always returned. If a client does not handle your apology well and further continues to verbally attack you for the mistake, then it is not a client you would want to work with anyway.
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