How to Retain a Client You’ve Let Down

| July 17, 2015

How to Retain a Client You’ve Let Down

Mistakes are inevitable, sometimes even unavoidable. You might miss a major deadline, or discover a big error in your work. Your blunder might turn out to be small or monumental, but it also affects your relationship with your client. Sometimes, if your mistake is big enough, you might even lose clients.

This is perhaps a small business owner’s worst nightmare. One unhappy customer can literally set fire to your business’ reputation. There are ways to retain your customer relationships and protect your name. You need to go about it wisely and carefully.

Be upfront about your mistakes

One of the worst mistakes you can do is to shift the blame or try to ignore it, hoping people won’t notice. It doesn’t matter who’s responsible for the mistake; as the small business owner, you need to assume accountability for all your employees. When you spot a mistake or see a problem with the project, contact your client directly and let them know.

You might face some heat in the beginning. Naturally, your client is going to be upset, but your honesty will earn your major points. Everyone knows what kind of courage it takes to admit to mistakes, especially when your livelihood is on the line. Once customers overcome their ire, they’re very likely to stick to you. Your honesty in the face of potential loss shows character and adds credibility to your business.

Offer freebies

Seems like a cheap tactic, like offering candy to an upset child. Moreover, your clients would recognize it too. But if you mess-up, your clients would actually expect to be offered some form of compensation, a discount on the bill or an extra service, etc.

As a small business owner, offering compensations of any substantial value can be difficult and you might hesitate, but the gesture will pay off in the end. In fact, if your act of apology shows enough sincerity, you might just build some good will with your client. For example, if you missed a major project deadline, you might offer your client a free service for two weeks or a month. They’ll certainly stick around to enjoy the free service. If you don’t offend during that period, all previous unhappiness will mostly likely be forgotten.

Convince your Customers

Material compensations aside, you still need to find ways to mend the damaged trust between you and your client. Be sure to convince your client that you do take quality seriously.

Some entrepreneurs are not so worried that they may have disappointed their customers; they’re more concerned about the potential loss of revenue. Some, however, feel the weight of that disappointment because they couldn’t give their client’s their money’s worth.

If you feel this way, make sure to let your clients see your regret. If your clients can be made to understand that their disappointment that’s making you work harder, they’ll recognize that your business (and you) is honest, trustworthy and values their patronage.

Don’t let it happen again

This is the bottom line. All of your efforts would go down the drain if you keep repeating mistakes. Eventually, no matter how much you compensate, your clients are going to realize you are inconsistent and turn away.