It can happen to ANYONE. Someone makes a mistake, forgets something, wasn’t paying full attention, and the client’s project get affected. There are many things we can do to prevent us from getting into such a situation. But again, there is the human side to everything, and mistakes can happen. And since we’re all human, then at some point we’ve made a mistake. Now, I won’t be going over what caused the mistake or how to prevent it. Instead we’ll go over what we can do to improve the situation and relationship with that client. If you have an experience you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments below.
Don’t try to hide it
By trying to cover things up, you’re probably digging yourself deeper into trouble. Your client may end up discovering more problems, find out from someone else, and if they get it from you, the full story, well it makes it that much better and builds trust between you and your client. It’s not fun giving clients bad news, but better give the bad news and work on a solution that hide the bad news and get into deeper trouble for hiding it!
Keep your client informed when there’s a problem. We’re not talking about a hiccup here, but a problem.
Say the word…. Sorry, and…
Apologizing for what happened and taking responsibility to fix the issue plays a major role in the future of your relationship. Take ownership, advise your client that it will be fixed, even if you’re not the one fixing it. You are part of the team. So in my case, let’s say a client’s website crashes. It could be an issue with the hosting, a hack, or even something related to something the client did. You might not even be responsible for the problem in the first place. But still, you can take responsibility, have empathy, and apologize for the problem it is causing them, and reassure them that the issue will be fixed.
Keep them informed
If the problem hasn’t been resolved yet, keep the client informed and reassure them that you’re working on it.
Identified the cause? Email them. Let them know what you’ll be doing to fix it. If the resolution takes time, give them a progress report. This will also help reinforce the relationship. And if your issue is across your network, let’s say affecting multiple clients, then put out posts on Social Networks. I know. You might say that this looks bad for you out in the open. But it’s better to come from you, than from a bunch of angry clients complaining on your Social Networks. Let your clients know before they let you know.
Keep an open line of communication with your client. A way for them to reach you, as well as for you to reach them. And make sure your client is aware of this way of getting a hold of you.
I remember working in a cell phone company, as tech support. A client, a company, had some kind of special setup with us, and most of the employees no longer had access to the network. I had an angry client, but one that was aware of the issue, reassured that our higher tech support team was working on it. Since we were in a call center, there was no way the client can reach me again. I felt like the best thing to do was to give him my phone number, personal cell phone, that way he is sure to be able to reach me. And he did. Sometimes off of work hours. Which was alright at the time, since my main goal was to get his team back up and running. He appreciated it and made sure to let my superiors know.
Now I highly recommend keeping communications in writing, specially if you are to agree to something. If it was done over the phone, confirm it with a follow up email. Sometimes you’ll also have to meet face to face. Look at their expectations, and advise of what can and cannot be done.
Learn from your mistakes. Build on the lesson learnt from that mistake. I personally like to use a tool like Trello to help me manage and organize my projects. I create lists and build on these lists to constantly improve my workflow, in order to avoid making mistakes. Make sure everything is always written in your briefs, have backups or your work, tools or whatever you use for your business. Solid contracts also help in keeping you in line with what you should do and offer, and what your responsibilities are.
You’ve done your best
Now the client is unhappy. You’ve done your best, and the client is still unpleasant to work with. In such a case, you might want to look at walking away from the relationship. Not always an option one would want, but sometimes you have to. But always make sure you complete all your contractual obligations. Be polite yet firm. Don’t blame them, but also make sure they have nothing on you and that you did everything you could to better the situation.
These tips are good for the freelancers, and small agencies. After all, we do this for the freedom of choosing and making decisions and having fun. Not to regret starting our own business!