Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Gain Credibility in a Mistake

How is it possible to gain credibility with your client when you make a mistake? The answer lies in how you respond. There is no credibility in making an excuse. As they say, “excuses only satisfy those who make them.”

Instead, when faced with delivering bad news to a client, try responding using the following process:

1. Before addressing the client, make sure you understand the facts of what happened.

2. Make sure the client hears it from you first. You don’t want your client hearing the news from the contractor, someone inside the client’s organization, or from the competition.

3. The preferred setting to deliver the news is face-to-face. At a minimum, you must speak voice-to-voice over the telephone.

4. Never bury bad news in an e-mail or voicemail.

5. Be accountable—accept responsibility for the mistake. If the client reacts angrily at the news, let them vent before proceeding to the next step.

6. Now, it’s time to present a solution. Present more than one option, if possible. By doing so, you give the client an opportunity to pick their preferred alternative—gaining their buy-in on the solution. The danger in presenting only one option is that you could find yourself still at odds with the client, if they do not agree with the single solution.

7. Once you have agreement from the client, implement and follow through to ensure the solution is in place.

8. To complete the process, follow up with the client to make sure they are satisfied with the solution and indicate at least one thing you will start doing differently to avoid repeating the mistake.

Delivering bad news to a client is never easy. Following the above guidelines will ease tension from the start, and your client’s reaction may even surprise you. If executed successfully, you have the opportunity to walk away having gained credibility—credibility in a mistake!

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