In fact, it’s better than OK. The reality is, in the course of any business relationship, something is going to go wrong at some time and it’s smart to get out front of it and to be very transparent.
Here’s a recent example of a problem we encountered in our own company we had to deal with, and an email we sent to the affected clients shortly following the incident as an apology:
We flooded your inbox today, and we are very sorry! Our current situation = the box of shame.
Earlier today, our system decided to pull an early Halloween stunt and send you multiple emails... multiple times... within a very short timeframe. Not cool. We don't like being flooded with emails, and we know you don't either!
At The Center for Sales Strategy, we have three core values: Quality, Integrity, and Responsiveness, and this ghoulish act does not speak to our core values, company culture, or our valued client relationships. For that, we are sorry, and we hope you will continue to let us deliver tips, ideas, and best practices to your inbox that will support your efforts to improve your sales performance.
We had a technical glitch that ended up flooding many of your inboxes with dozens of copies of a set of emails. Our IT team caught the glitch minutes after they were sent and shut down the system to stop any further emails from going out. The problem is corrected, and now we're asking for your forgiveness!
We value the relationship we've built with our clients, and your trust is of utmost importance to our team.
From this group of humans to another human, we are truly sorry for this and apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused. Thank you for your patience and as always, thank you for your trust. We look forward to continuing to partner with you!
The CSS Family
Nobody is happy when things go wrong, but there are productive ways to handle the situation. You saw what we did say. What we didn’t say is we got hacked, or our IT provider caused the problem, or worst-case scenario, pretend it didn’t happen. Trying to spin a situation almost never works.
Compare this to some of the stories you have heard in the news over the past few years about companies who totally bungle the delivery of bad news. You’ve often heard the phrase, “The coverup is worse than the crime.” It’s true.
So, whether you are an individual or a company, here are some guidelines we suggest for dealing with a mess up:
- Be proactive. Get on top of it right away. It’s best that your customers learn about the problem quickly and from you than someone else who may not have the full story (or, worse yet, has a competing agenda causing them to make the story worse).
- Tell the truth. Sounds simple, right? It is simple, but not always easy. We realize there may be advisors who recommend a spin on the story for legal reasons or whatever, but transparency is valuable and more likely to help you maintain the customer relationship well into the future.
- Apologize, and mean it. You can probably think of a few seemingly disingenuous apologies lately in business, sports, and politics. Don’t be that.
- Let your customer know what you are doing to fix the mistake. Also inform them on what you are doing to prevent it from happening in the future.
- Ask for forgiveness. Most people are willing to forgive an honest mistake, especially when you point it out and tell them how you are going to fix it. To err is human. To forgive, divine. To cover up, spin, or ignore is deadly.
Honesty and humility still go a long way in today's business environment. So, when things go wrong, follow these guidelines and you could actually gain stature with your client rather than diminish it. In fact, we got many supportive responses after sending the message. This one is my favorite… Great response, Jim. A master class in how to respond to an issue like this.